Thailand’s voters have delivered a stunning blow to the military-backed government that has ruled the country since a coup in 2014, according to preliminary election results.
The progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) and the populist Pheu Thai Party, both opposed to the military’s influence over politics, won the most seats and the largest share of the popular vote in Sunday’s election.
Move Forward Party (MFP) overtakes the Shinawatra family
The MFP, a new party formed in 2020 by young activists and academics, won 148 seats out of 500 in the lower house of parliament, with 113 directly elected and 35 from the party list. The party campaigned on a platform of institutional reform, including amending the constitution and the lese majeste law that criminalizes criticism of the monarchy.
“Dear fellow citizens, today I am ‘Clear’ and ‘Ready’ to be the 30th Prime Minister of Thailand.” said Move Forward Party leader Pita Limjaroenrat in a statement published in the early hours of Monday.
The Pheu Thai Party, linked to the billionaire Shinawatra family that has dominated Thai politics for two decades, won 138 seats, with 111 directly elected and 27 from the party list. The party has a loyal base of supporters in the rural north and northeast of the country, who benefited from its populist policies when it was in power.
Incumbent Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha defeated
The United Thai Nation Party (UTNP), led by incumbent Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who staged the 2014 coup as army chief, came in fifth with only 36 seats. The party had hoped to secure enough support from its allies and the military-appointed senate to keep Prayuth in power, but its poor performance has dashed those hopes.
The election results show that Thailand’s voters are fed up with the military’s interference in politics and want a change of direction for the country. However, forming a new government will not be easy, as the opposition parties will need to negotiate with other smaller parties and overcome possible legal challenges from the pro-military camp. The final results are expected to be announced by June 15.