Thailand’s Election Commission (EC) announced official results Tuesday of 350 parliamentary seats that were directly elected in March polls, but said 150 so-called party-list seats would be given after the Constitutional Court ruled on a formula used to calculate them.
The opposition won the largest number of seats by a comfortable margin but lost a seat after a candidate was disqualified, according to the official results. These results were only one seat different from unofficial results tallied by the commission after the March 24 general election, the first polls held since a military government came to power through a coup five years earlier.
“Ittiporn Boonprakong (EC chief), signed to endorse the results of 349 constituency MPs – except for one in Chiang Mai, which will have a reelection. Results will be announced in the Royal Gazette,” EC Deputy Secretary-General Sawang Boonmee told reporters on Tuesday.
The reelection for the Chiang Mai seat is scheduled for May 26.
Despite the announcement, results remain murky two days before the law required that the elected and party-list MPs must be announced by Thursday. The formula used to apportion the party-list seats among contending parties remained up in the air, pending a court ruling.
“The Constitution Court will consider a judgment starting at 9 a.m. Wednesday,” the court said in a message to the media after accepting the Ombudsman Office’s request on May 2.
The EC, meanwhile, said it would convene at 10 a.m. Wednesday – one hour after the court – to discuss the matter.
The Constitutional Court had previously rejected an EC request to rule on whether the party-list formula was in line with Thai law, but the Ombudsman’s Office, a theoretically independent body of the Thai government, subsequently called on the court to rule on the matter.
“The request doesn’t meet criteria to seek Constitutional Court’s judgment,” it said on April 24, arguing there was no proof that the EC had performed its duty to calculate the party list MPs.
The EC said it sought the court’s judgment to determine if the formula, which critics have said favors smaller parties, was valid. The EC devised a mathematical formula that credits parties for total votes received.
“To make sure the formula is right and is constitutional,” the EC said in a media statement at the time.
“There is one formula for party-list MPs, which was designed by the constitutional drafting committee. There will be 27 parties gaining party-list MPs,” Charungwit Poomma, the EC’s secretary-general told the Thai Rath newspaper on April 29.
Meanwhile, 15 cabinet members have resigned in what observers said could be a move to allow the junta government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha to hand-pick them for the 250-seat senate.
The 250 senators, along with the 350 elected and 150 party list members of the lower house of parliament will select the next prime minister, who needs the support of 376 members (one more than half of the 750 legislators) to form the government. Observers have pointed out that because they are appointed, the senate members likely will support Prayuth, giving him a head start to reaching 376.
Analysts said the 250 senators were to be announced within three days after the MPs were announced.
Concerns about party list
The opposition Pheu Thai Party, which won the most seats in the election’s contested portion, challenged the EC, claiming the formula was biased toward the pro-junta Palang Pracharat Party.
Shortly after the March 24 vote, reports surfaced that Palang Pracharat Party, which won 39 fewer seats than the Pheu Thai Party, could make up much of the difference through the party-list selections.
“It is unconstitutional, no matter what. It favors a certain party and let it pull together those MPs to form a government,” Tossaporn Serirak of the Pheu Thai Party told reporters in early April.
Titipol Phakdeewanich, the dean of the faculty of political science at Ubon Ratchathani University, said the EC needed to show no bias.
“The EC may have been pressured but as an independent body, it must stay neutral and hold up integrity and choose to support democracy,” Titipol told BenarNews in a phone interview on Tuesday.
“Parties that gain a party-list MP should have at least 71,000 popular votes. The formula favors Palang Pracharat Party,” Titipol said. “There is a tendency that smaller parties would join Palang Pracharat, and Prayuth will remain prime minister.”