On May 14, Thailand held its first national elections since 2019 with nearly 40 million Thai voters heading to the polls. According to the initial results, the opposition Pheu Thai and Move Forward won by a significant margin against the military-backed peer parties. The Move Forward party won by a significant margin, winning most of the seats. The pre-election polling had predicted the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party to have a victory.
The prime ministerial candidate Pita Limjaroenrat is facing a critical test as the parliament convenes for a significant vote on the premiership that could test the unity of the eight-party alliance. The leader of the Move Forward party was the only candidate and was nominated unopposed. Pita Limjaroenrat but have to be backed by more than half of the 749-member bicameral parliament in a vote expected late afternoon.
How will Thailand choose the next PM?
The 500-seat lower vote which is newly elected and the appointed 250-member senate must jointly elect the new prime minister. The parties will be asked to nominate the candidates which requires the backing of 50 members. The voting is done through an open ballot and each of the legislators will be called in alphabetical order and will be given a chance to reveal their choice.
In order to become the prime minister the candidate must need 376 votes which is more than half of the legislature. If the candidate does not get the required number, another vote will be scheduled. The same candidates will be allowed to put forward again or even new ones could be nominated. The process will continue till one candidate gets the required amount of vote count. There is no time limit.
Challenges for Pita
Move Forward Party’s progressive agendas could oppose the belief system of the powerful nexus of the knot of the conservatives and old families that have established their presence in Thai politics for decades. The liberal and anti-establishment ideologies could backfire on Pita’s ambitions to become the prime minister of Thailand.
His alliance controls 312 seats, but to get the required 375 votes, he would require the support of at least 249 members of the upper-house Senate, which majorly consist of conservative-leaning members. They were appointed by the military after the coup in 2014. “I’m confident that I will do my best to match the hopes and encouragement from the people,” stated Pita to the reporters.
A Rough Ride
Even though Pita is an unopposed candidate which makes his journey to the PM position smooth, he had to face many challenges. Two legal complaints against him were filed on the eve of the vote which prompted hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators to gather in Bangkok to keep Move Forward from gaining power. Thailand’s main stock index had also plunged 11 percent so far due to political instabilities. The baht, however, is growing strong with nearing a -six-week high against the dollar.
The Move Forward Party had plans to make changes to the strict laws that prohibit insulting the monarchy and the constitutional court agreed to take a complaint against the party over this. According to Reuters, the cases lodged against the party is the latest turn of events in a two-decade struggle for gaining power in Thailand, which is Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy. This power struggle was filled with coups, street protests, and legal interventions. Things could go on a downward spiral if Pita Limjaroenrat does not receive enough votes to form a new government.
Announcing an early retirement
Amidst the excitement of deciding on a new prime minister as the parliament convenes, Thailand PM Prayut Chan-o-cha announced retirement from politics and will not seek reelection. Prayut has ruled Thailand since 2014 when serving as an army chief. He had seized control of the nation through a military coup. During the 2019 elections, his party won the majority seats and was elected as the prime minister with the support of the Senate.