A party closely linked to Thailand’s junta appeared positioned to lead a new government after electoral officials assigned remaining seats in parliament’s lower house Wednesday, using a complex formula that opposition leaders slammed as unfair and illegal.
After the Constitutional Court approved the mathematical formula to award party-list seats, the Thai Election Commission (EC) later in the day announced official results for 149 of those seats that it allocated based on voting in the March 24 general election. There still was no outright winner but Wednesday’s results gave the pro-junta Palang Pracharat Party (PPP) a clear edge in its bid to form the first government since the military seized power in a coup five years ago.
The 149 party-list seats were calculated based on the total vote and were awarded to 27 parties. The opposition Pheu Thai Party, which won 136 of the 350 contested parliamentary constituency races, did not pick up any of the additional seats.
PPP, which supports junta-leader turned Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha and received the most votes, benefitted from the formula, adding 18 seats to go with the 97 won on election day.
The EC said it was investigating complaints about the March 24 vote.
“At present, the Election Commission is in a process of considering more than 400 complaints, about 50 among those are related to qualifications. The EC has one year by law for electoral revocation or re-election if fault is found,” said Sawang Boonmee, deputy Election Commission secretary-general.
To form a new government, a party must have majority support (at least 376 votes) from the 500 members of parliament and the 250 senate members who are to be hand-picked later this month by the junta government.
Because the senators are appointed by Prayuth’s government, observers expect them to support the PPP, adding 250 to the party’s 115 for a total of 365. On Wednesday, Reuters news service reported that parties aligned with PPP had seven seats, bringing the total to 372.
Parties holding large numbers of seats include: Pheu Thai, 136; Future Forward Party 80; the Democrat Party 52; and the Bhumjaithai Party, 51.
The Pheu Thai Party, Thailand’s largest opposition party, which is associated with deposed and exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, called the formula unconstitutional.
“The Pheu Thai Party sees the Election Commission’s proceedings as deliberate actions and use of power in violations of the constitution and the (electoral) law,” it said in a statement, according to Reuters.
The Future Forward Party, another party in the opposition, also objected to the EC’s decision on the party-list seats.
“The EC exercises its power in a way costing seven MPs of Future Forward Party,” said Piyabutr Saengkanokkul, the party’s secretary-general, in a letter presented to the EC. “These people were affected by the EC, which performed its duty unconstitutionally.”
Future Forward chief Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit told a news conference Wednesday that his party was prepared to negotiate with any party “that does not support Prayuth as a prime minister in order for our democracy to move forward,” Agence France-Presse reported.
Analysts said the system made it difficult for the opposition parties to form a coalition to control more than half of the 500 parliamentary seats.
“When as many as 27 parties have seats, the parties in the democratic front find it harder to form a new government because they have less than 250 seats,” Professor Anusorn Unno, dean of sociology and anthropology Thammasat University in Bangkok, told BenarNews on Wednesday.
Titipol Phakdeewanich, who heads the political science faculty at Ubon Ratchathani University, supported Anusorn’s observation.
“Even if Pheu Thai Party can find 251 votes, it is not certain that it can find 376 votes in selecting prime minister,” Titipol told BenarNews. “The roles of senators may entice small parties to join Palang Pracharat Party.”
“Palang Pracharat stands a good chance of becoming the new government, but I reiterate here it is an illegitimate one,” Titipol said.