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Thailand: Pro-Junta Coalition Moves Closer to Election Victory

Nontarat Phaicharoen and Wilawan Watcharasakwet
Bangkok
2019-05-13
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Uttama Savanayana, leader of Palang Pracharat Party, (center) joins with leaders of 11 parties vowing to form a coalition to establish new government, May 13, 2019.
Uttama Savanayana, leader of Palang Pracharat Party, (center) joins with leaders of 11 parties vowing to form a coalition to establish new government, May 13, 2019.
Nontarat Phaicharoen/BenarNews

A pro-junta party in Thailand obtained 11 more seats in parliament Monday, which could give it the 376 seats needed to form a government if all 250 senators appointed by the junta back the alliance.

Palang Pracharat Party (PPP), which vows to support Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha’s bid to retain power, joined 11 smaller parties to announce an alliance to overcome the opposition led by the Pheu Thai Party.

“We are confident in and we reiterate that we will vote for Prayuth to be prime minister,” Sampan Lertnuwat, leader of Polamuang Thai Party, told reporters in Bangkok. “We, 11 parties with 11 seats, want to see the new government take shape at the soonest possible time.”

Prayuth assumed the role of prime minister after leading a military coup that overthrew the democratic government of Yingluck Shinawatra in May 2014. Pheu Thai Party supports Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, whose government was toppled in a similar coup in 2006.

The Election Commission (EC) last week officially endorsed results for 349 constituencies and 149 party-list seats.

The constituency parliamentarians won their seats in the March 24 elections while the party-list seats were filled by the election commission using a mathematical formula based on the total vote count. A seat remains open in both categories because a candidate was disqualified, forcing a revote later this month.

Pheu Tai won 136 seats outright while PPP picked up 115 through a combination of constituency election and party list. Both must seek partners to achieve a majority in parliament.

Other parties holding large numbers of seats include the Future Forward Party (80), the Democrat Party (52), and the Bhumjaithai Party (51), while 22 other parties also picked up seats.

The 350 elected and 150 party-list members of the lower house of parliament, as well as 250 junta-picked senators, are expected to select the next prime minister sometime around May 27, according to observers.

To form a new government, a party needs support of 376 members, one more than half of the 750 legislators.

The 11 parties joining forces with PPP would lead to 126 seats. As Prayuth’s government picked the 250 senators, he is expected to get a solid bloc needed to reach 376. The nation’s military-drafted 2017 constitution specifies that the senators and the members of parliament elect a new prime minister together.

“We are trying to form a government and still have time to talk to other parties,” PPP leader Uttama Savanayana told reporters, without elaborating. “We respect them and know that they have internal process to follow.”

Meanwhile, an official representing one of the 11 smaller parties told reporters that the Action Coalition for Thailand Party and People Reform Party were expected to join the pro-junta coalition, bringing its count to 132 – six more than needed if it gets the votes of all 250 senators.

Opposition numbers

Pheu Thai Party, which won 136 seats, previously pledged alliance with six other parties, bringing their total to 245 – less than half of the 500-member lower house.

The Democrat Party, the Bhumjaithai Party and four others hold 121 seats but have not decided if they will join an alliance.

An analyst said he expected smaller parties to join the PPP because the system of including the handpicked senators in the selection process made it difficult for the opposition parties to form a coalition that could control government.

“It was not a surprise. The joining of small parties is expected to bring stability to Palang Pracharat,” said Titipol Phakdeewanich, the dean of the political science faculty at Ubon Ratchathani University.

Last week, Prayuth hinted that the list of 250 senators had been submitted for king’s endorsement.

The full parliament is expected to open within May 23, no more than 15 days after the announcement of the official results, to select the house speaker, according to analysts. The speaker will call for a session to select the new prime minister, anticipated by May 27.

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