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Thailand's Pheu Thai party willing to join a coalition government

Thailand's Pheu Thai party willing to join a coalition government

Pheu Thai Party's prime ministerial candidates Paetongtarn Shinawatra (left) and Srettha Thavisin (right) address the media at the party's headquarters in Bangkok on May 15, 2023. (Photo: AFP/Manan Vatsyayana)

BANGKOK: Thailand's opposition Pheu Thai party said on Monday (May 15) that it was willing to join a coalition government led by the reformist Move Forward Party, after voters rejected the ruling army-linked government. 

Move Forward Party is on course to be the biggest party in parliament, and Pheu Thai said it would accept leader Pita Limjaroenrat's invitation to join a coalition, saying he had earned the right to lead the government.

Pita said he had called Paetongtarn Shinawatra, Pheu Thai's lead prime minister candidate, to congratulate her on her campaign and invited her to join the coalition.

Between them, Move Forward Party and Pheu Thai are expected to take 292 out of 500 seats in the lower house, with the two main army-allied parties mustering just 76 seats in total.

But in a kingdom where coups and court orders have often trumped the ballot box, there are fears that the result may yet be thwarted.

In a sign of the potential flashpoints ahead, Pita on Monday repeated a promise to reform the lese majeste law that imposes harsh prison terms for insulting the monarchy.

This was an issue once deemed untouchable in Thai politics, and which Pheu Thai shied away from during the campaign.

Asked if Pheu Thai would back that, Paetongtarn, daughter of party patriarch and exiled billionaire Thaksin, said it could be discussed in the legislature.

"Pheu Thai has a clear stand that we won't abolish 112 (the section in the Thai Criminal Code) but there can be a discussion about the law in parliament," she said.


Pheu Thai, which, including previous iterations, has been the most popular party for two decades, had hoped for a landslide win that would allow it to lead a coalition.

The party congratulated Move Forward Party, saying it had won the right to lead the new government.

"Pheu Thai has no plan to form any other government," leader Chonlanan Srikaew told a press conference.

Paetongtarn said the two sides have not yet started negotiating the details of a coalition.

Despite their success, Move Forward Party and Pheu Thai still face many hurdles to secure power, due to a junta-scripted 2017 constitution.

The new premier will be chosen jointly by the 500 elected MPs in the lower house, plus 250 senate members appointed by Prayut's junta.

The May 14 election was the first since the 2020 protests that demanded curbs on the power and spending of Thailand's king.

The demonstrations petered out as COVID-19 curbs were imposed and dozens of leaders were arrested, but their energy fuelled growing support for the more radical opposition Move Forward Party.

It sought millennial and Gen Z voters, who make up nearly half the 52 million-strong electorate, but early results indicated their inroads across all demographics.

The party is predicted to take districts in the staunchly Pheu Thai northern territories - even flipping Thaksin's home district near the northern city of Chiang Mai.

Source: Agencies/gs(sn)


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