Thailand’s reformist opposition has won the most seats and the largest share of the popular vote in a general election after voters resoundingly rejected the military-backed parties that have ruled the Southeast Asian country for nearly a decade.
With nearly all votes counted on Monday, the progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) and the populist Pheu Thai Party were projected to win about 286 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives.But uncertainty remains about whether they would be able to form the next government due to skewed parliamentary rules that allow 250 members of a military-appointed Senate to vote on the prime minister.
That means MFP and Pheu Thai will need the support of smaller parties to establish a new administration.
The biggest winner of Sunday’s vote was MFP, a progressive youth-led party that contested the general elections for the first time on a bold platform of reforming the monarchy and reducing the power of the military by rewriting the country’s constitution and ending conscription.
With 99 percent of votes counted, the MFP looked set to take the biggest share of the lower house with a total of 147 seats, preliminary results published on the election commission website showed. The figure includes 112 from the 400 seats that are directly elected and 35 from the 100 seats allocated to parties on a proportional basis.Analysts described the outcome for MFP as “outstanding” as pre-election surveys had predicted that it would be Pheu Thai, which has won every election since 2001 and is linked to the billionaire Shinawatra family, that would take the lion’s share.
The latest results showed Pheu Thai winning a total of 138 seats — 112 directly elected and 27 from the party list.The royalist-military parties fared poorly.
The United Thai Nation Party of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who seized power as army chief in a 2014 coup, was trailing in fifth with 36 seats. His former party, the Palang Pracharath, was fourth with about 40 seats.Coming in third was Bhumjaithai Party, which spearheaded the campaign to legalise cannabis in Thailand. Part of the current ruling coalition, Bhumjaithai was projected to win about 70 seats.
“The result is a very impressive victory for the Move Forward Party,” said Titipol Phakdeewanich, professor of political science at the Ubon Ratchathani University in eastern Thailand.
“It marks a big turning point for Thailand because it indicates most people in the country want change,” he told Al Jazeera. “We are really seeing the power of the electorate, who fought hard this time for change.”‘Sensational’
Indeed, on voting day on Sunday, Thais – young and old alike – turned up in huge numbers to cast their ballots, with many in the capital saying they were voting for change. By midday, officials at several polling stations in Bangkok said more than half of those eligible had braved the sweltering heat to cast their ballots.
That included 60-year-old Mallika Sriboonreung, who told Al Jazeera she was feeling “excited” to vote this year. All of her family and most of her neighbours had already cast their votes, she said. “I came to vote because I wish for a better person to run the country,” she added.
Across Thailand, voting proceeded smoothly with long and orderly queues observed at the beginning of the day in the northern city of Chiang Mai, the eastern resort city of Pattaya and the western tourist island of Phuket.
In all of those areas, MFP swept the polls.
In Bangkok, it is poised to win all but one of the city’s 33 constituencies.