Thailand’s opposition forms 7-party 'pro-democracy' coalition, claims lower house majority

Thailand’s opposition forms 7-party 'pro-democracy' coalition, claims lower house majority

Thailand political alliance
Leaders of a coalition of Thai political parties attend a press conference in Bangkok on March 27, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Lillian SUWANRUMPHA)

BANGKOK: The Pheu Thai Party, which is opposed to the military government, formed a political alliance with six pro-democracy parties on Wednesday (Mar 27) after securing support from 255 MPs in the lower house of parliament. 

The party's prime ministerial candidate Sudarat Keyuraphan and leaders from five other parties - Future Forward, Thai Liberal, Prachachart, Pheu Chart and Thai People Power - declared their will to stop the inheritance of the National Council for Peace and Order's (NCPO) power during a meeting in Bangkok. 

The New Economics Party, which is under the leadership of Mingkwan Sangsuwan, was not present at the meeting to sign the agreement, but agreed to be part of the alliance opposing the NCPO. 

READ: Military-backed party 'confident' it can form government, setting stage for standoff in Thailand

Although the alliance claimed to have no fewer than 255 seats so far, the support only gives them a slim majority in the 500-seat House of Representatives.

Only 350 seats in the House of Representatives are directly elected “constituency seats” where the candidate with the most votes wins the district in a first-past-the-post system.

The remaining 150 seats will come from the so-called national party lists under a system of proportional representation, which is yet to be calculated based on the total number of votes cast in the Mar 24 general election.

READ:  Who won the Thai election? Thailand's 'confusing' election result explained

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 government that in 2014 overthrew an elected Pheu Thai government.

The outcome of the election remains shrouded in doubt, with unofficial results delayed until at least Friday.

Partial results still indicate that the pro-army Palang Pracharat party would have enough votes to keep Prayut Chan-o-cha on as prime minister.

But an opposition alliance majority in the lower house, the House of Representatives, could lead to deadlock.

Thailand political alliance
(Left to right) Pheu Thai party leaders Phumtham Wechayachai, Sudarat Keyuraphan and Future Forward Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit attend a press conference in Bangkok on March 27, 2019. (Photo: AFP/Lillian SUWANRUMPHA)

SENATE ROLE IN PM PICK

According to the new Constitution of 2017, the Senate - the upper house in parliament  with 250 members - has the power to jointly select the prime minister in conjunction with the House of Representatives - the lower house - during the initial five years of the first national assembly to be formed after the election.

The law stipulates that a prospective prime minister must be approved by more than half of the combined 750-member assembly. 

READ: Monitor says Thai election campaign 'heavily tilted' to benefit military government

READ: US sees 'positive signs' in Thai election

As a result, a political party needs to garner at least 376 votes in a joint sitting – either from both Houses or only from the lower house's 500 members – in order for its candidate to win the premiership and form the government. 

The Senate’s role in the prime ministerial selection means Thailand’s future government does not need to win support from most MPs in the lower house as long as it can secure support from at least 376 parliamentarians. 

Based on the unofficial results published by the Thai Election Commission, the party has the second most constituency seats in the House of Representatives after the Pheu Thai Party:

  • Pheu Thai - 137
  • Palang Pracharat - 97
  • Bhumjaithai - 39
  • Democrat - 33
  • Future Forward - 30
  • Prachachart - 7
  • Chartthai Pattana - 6
  • Ruam Palang Prachachart Thai - 1

READ: Commentary: In Thailand, there is only one certainty – the army remains key


“PRO-DEMOCRACY PARTIES HAVE WON MOST OF TRUST AND ACCEPTANCE”

"We have discussed and agreed that we will respect the social contract and the will of the people who have elected us. Today, pro-democracy parties have won most of trust and acceptance," Sudarat told reporters in a press conference.

"Although the number still fluctuates, we now have no fewer than 255 MPs who have made it clear (where they stand) and we still have more allies to discuss with. We - the pro-democracy alliance that opposes the NCPO's power inheritance - have won most seats and the acceptance of the people."

In 2014, the NCPO led by Gen Prayut Chan-O-cha staged a military coup to topple the democratically elected government of Pheu Thai's Yingluck Shinawatra and has since ruled Thailand.

READ: Thailand's coup maker could face tough transition to civilian leadership

It formed the National Legislative Assembly to pass laws, handpicked a committee to draft a new constitution and invoked Section 44 of the 2014 interim charter to grant itself the absolute power of issuing orders that override the executive, legislative and judicial branches. 

Everything it has done, it claimed, was for peace, harmony and reform. All of it, under the command of Prayut, who is the sole prime ministerial candidate of the pro-military party Palang Pracharat.

On Wednesday, the newly formed coalition's representatives signed an agreement to jointly oppose the NCPO's power. 

Source: CNA/Agencies/na(rw)

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