Thailand’s opposition “democratic front” of seven parties on Wednesday claimed it had won a majority in the lower house of parliament after a messy election, saying it has the right to try to form a government after five years of military rule. However, the opposition alliance would still fall short of being able to elect a prime minister.
Under parliamentary rules, written by the ruling military junta, the party or coalition picking a prime minister requires a majority in the combined upper and lower houses of parliament. With unofficial results of Sunday’s vote still delayed, the ruling junta showed no sign giving up on its goal to keep former army chief and coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha in the premiership.
The post-election standoff could raise tensions just as the Southeast Asian country prepares for the elaborate coronation of its new king in May.
Sudarat Keyuraphan, the main prime ministerial candidate of the Pheu Thai party ousted by the 2014 army coup, told reporters the seven parties in the opposition alliance would take at least 255 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives. “We declare that the democratic front who opposes military rule commands the majority in the House,” Sudarat said.
She said the largest alliance in the lower house should be given the right to try to form a government. “Parties in the democratic front gained the most trust from the people,” Sudarat told reporters, adding that they were also in talks with other parties.
The pro-military Palang Pracharat party has also claimed the right to form the next government based on its early lead in the popular vote. And an official with the pro-army party also said it could still win a majority as the count was still in flux.
“We got the most popular votes. Almost 8 million wanted to see Prayuth as prime minister,” Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, Palang Pracharat’s deputy spokesman, told reporters.
When asked about the democratic front’s claim, deputy junta leader Prawit Wongsuwan said parties should not act prematurely as it will be six weeks until the election commission publishes official results.
The partial count suggests the election could result in parliamentary deadlock even once a government is eventually formed. With the Senate filled with un-elected pro-junta lawmakers, the Palang Pracharat party looks like it could win enough elected seats in the lower house for Prayuth to stay on as prime minister.
Prayuth would potentially face parliamentary deadlock if the opposition alliance controls the lower house, and he would be vulnerable to a confidence vote. Pheu Thai’s secretary-general, Phumtham Wechayachai, told reporters the democratic front now includes Future Forward party, Pheu Chart, Prachachart, Seri Ruam Thai, Thai People Power and New Economy.
A fuller picture of the make-up of the lower house could emerge on Friday, when the commission releases vote tallies for each constituency, which will then be used to determine the allocation of other 150 party seats under a complex formula.