Thaksin allies denied majority by minor Thai parties

Thailand’s main anti-junta party has won the most parliamentary seats in the first election since the 2014 military coup but it will not get to choose the prime minister.

Six weeks after the vote, Thailand’s Election Commission has finally released the results of 150 seats decided under a controversial proportional representation system.

Pheu Thai, which is backed by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, won 136 seats while the pro-military Palang Pracharat party secured 115.

Thaksin-allied parties have won every other Thai general election since 2001.

The telecoms tycoon won a landslide in 2001 and was the first Thai prime minister to complete a full term in office before being deposed in the 2006 coup amid accusations of corruption. The military-drafted 2017 constitution outlaws external involvement in politics but Pheu Thai insists Thaksin remains the “ideological leader”.

Official figures released this week show Pheu Thai and its allies appear to have secured 245 of the 500 seats in the lower house, six short of an overall majority.

Forming a government is decided by both houses and the 250-seat senate is chosen entirely by the military. The junta leader, former general Prayut Chan-o-cha, is expected to remain in office with the lower and upper houses due to vote together for the next prime minister within a few weeks.

General Prayuth is expected to try to form a coalition of 20 parties.

Critics said the odds were stacked against the opposition in the March 24 election that was seen as a contest between the junta and pro-democracy forces.

The lengthy vote count was marred by complaints over further delays and irregularities. The Election Commission’s delayed announcement about 150 seats allocated proportionally has given seats to some tiny parties. One party received fewer than 34,000 votes nationwide.

The party-list announcement has denied the opposition parties the chance of forming a majority.

Several politicised lawsuits have been filed against Future Forward, a new opposition party that proved popular with young voters.

The Election Commission stopped publishing numbers after the vote, blamed the media when its figures were questioned. It said its servers suffered from hacking attacks, while providing few details.

The Pheu Thai party said it would “pursue every legal means” to challenge the shadowy seat-allocating formula, which it claimed denied it a majority by favouring minor parties.

Of the 500 lower-house seats, 350 were elected using a first-past-the-post system and the remaining 150 members are selected according to the proportional formula.

Thai voters were offered a huge range of electoral options. Picture credit: Asean Economist