Official Thai poll results point to pro-military governing coalition

The military establishment has rejected accusations that the latest electoral contest is unfair and stacked in its favour


BANGKOK • Thailand released official results from March’s disputed election that boost a pro-military party’s push to form a governing coalition.

The Election Commission (EC) allocated so-called party-list seats on Wednesday, a day after certifying 349 MPs who won in their constituencies.

Party-list seats account for 30 percent of the lower house and are assigned using proportional representation.

The latest results increase the seat count of Palang Pracharath, the party carved out of Thailand’s junta, and bring many small parties into Parliament that are expected to back it.

At the same time, the figures signal that a rival anti-junta coalition has lost its claimed lower house majority.

“Palang Pracharath is on course to form a coalition that will likely be made up of more than 10 parties,” said Punchada Sirivunnabood, a visiting fellow at Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute and an expert on Thai politics.

“So, one of the risks will be the stability of the government that’s made up of many interest groups, all competing to push their agendas.”

Palang Pracharath has put together a majority coalition with at least 256 seats and expects its candidate, junta leader Prayuth Chan-o-cha (picture), to return as prime minister (PM), local newspaper Krungthep Turakij reported yesterday, without saying where it got the information.

A Constitutional Court ruling backing the poll agency’s contested party-list calculation formula paved the way for Wednesday’s release.

But at least one member of the anti-junta alliance said it’s considering legal action over the method the agency used.

The overall results of Thailand’s first election since a coup in 2014, based on the latest figures, show that the Pheu Thai party linked to exiled former PM Thaksin Shinawatra won the most seats — 136 — but fell short of a majority.

Palang Pracharath was second with 115, and the young Future Forward party third on 80. A total of 27 parties will have seats in the elected lower house.

Days after the March 24 election, Pheu Thai said it had formed a seven-member, anti-junta coalition that unofficially would have 255 seats in the 500-strong lower house.

That number falls to 245, based on the certified results.

Pheu Thai said in a statement on Wednesday that it still doubts the EC’s method for allocating party-list seats is constitutional.

Palang Pracharath previously said it’s on course to take power and return Prayuth as PM, but has yet to formally announce coalition plans.

Prayuth unseated a Pheu Thai-led administration in 2014 and is seen as the favourite to return as PM because a junta-appointed 250-member Senate votes on who becomes PM, along with the lower chamber.

The Senate is due to be appointed by the weekend and the first sitting of Parliament is expected by May 23, with the PM set to be elected soon after.

The drawn out process since the vote has unsettled some investors. Foreign funds have pulled out a net US$1.6 billion (RM6.64 billion) from Thai stocks and bonds this year. The central bank has warned the economy could be affected if the process of forming the next administration drags on to August or later.

Thai politics has been dominated for more than a decade by a tussle for power pitting the royalist and military elite against Thaksin and his allies, who draw support from the rural poor and prevailed in every election since 2001, only to be unseated from government by the army or the courts.

The military establishment has rejected accusations that the latest electoral contest under an army-backed constitution is unfair and stacked in its favour.

The question now is whether these tensions, as well as the challenge of managing a coalition government, will hamper policy making in an economy where growth is slowing and lags behind neighbours in South-East Asia. — Bloomberg