Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

Thailand's opposition forms alliance, claims lower house majority

Pheu Thai party candidate says alliance set to win 255 seats

Pheu Thai party leader Sudarat Keyuraphan listens to Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit during a joint press conference in Bangkok. AFP
Pheu Thai party leader Sudarat Keyuraphan listens to Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit during a joint press conference in Bangkok. AFP

Thailand's Pheu Thai party said on Wednesday that it has the right to try and form a government after creating a "democratic front" with other parties after a disputed election.

Pheu Thai says it now has 255 seats, giving it a majority in the lower house of parliament. However, the coalition would likely fall short of electing a prime minister, which requires a combined vote with the upper house of parliament, the Senate, which is entirely appointed by the military junta that in 2014 overthrew an elected Pheu Thai government.

Pheu Thai's prime ministerial candidate Sudarat Kayuraphan told a news conference that together with the other parties in the "democratic front" the opposition alliance would win 255 seats, based on calculations drawn from partial results.

Unofficial results of Sunday's election have been delayed until Friday amid a confused vote count and allegations of fraud.

The pro-military Palang Pracharat party, which wants junta chief and leader of a 2014 coup Prayut Chan-o-cha to stay on as prime minister, has also claimed the right to form a government based on its early lead in the popular vote.

In truth, it's not that simple for either side.

The fragmented parliament that voters handed them will – instead of the return to democracy that many had hoped the election would deliver – plunge the country into political gridlock and uncertainty.

The 255 seats needed for a majority will not necessarily allow the largest party or coalition to form a government as cabinet is appointed by the prime minister. Critics of the rules brought in by the junta three years ago say that it was introduced by the military to prevent opposition groups returning to power.

With the backing of any of the 250 seat Senate military appointees unlikely, it will be almost impossible for a non-military backed candidate from gaining the needed 350 seats needed from both houses to appoint a head of government.

Without its own prime minister to make the coalition a government, the democratic front would instead become a strong, majority opposition.

Meanwhile, Prayuth's party needs only about 126 House seats to vote with the 250 Senate members to make him prime minister and form a new government – albeit a minority one.

Palang Pracharat is likely to win around 120 lower house seats on its own. Only two other parties, with about 6 seats combined, have publicly taken its side.

Both sides are trying to recruit other unaligned parties, which have combined seats of more than 100.

Without a majority, a Parayuth government would struggle to pass laws but will likely try to woo opposition members across the aisle to tip the scale in its favour.

But such a new government would only have weeks to pass the most significant law: the next fiscal year's budget bill. A failure to pass this bill could cripple the new administration.

With the Democratic Front likely to block such a bill, they could trigger a no-confidence motion and oust the new Prayuth led administration.

The process would then begin again.

Updated: March 27, 2019 05:37 PM