Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Messy days ahead as Thai political factions jostle to lead next gov’t

Messy days ahead as Thai political factions jostle to lead next gov’t

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The Thai election has been ‘rigged’ and marred by ‘irregularities’, said exiled former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in Hong Kong on Monday. ISAAC LAWRENCE/AFP

Messy days ahead as Thai political factions jostle to lead next gov’t

Rival political camps jostled for position on Tuesday, hoping to form a government after Thailand’s first election since a coup – a vote clouded by allegations of a bungled counting process and chicanery under junta-written rules.

The junta is in pole position to return to power as a civilian administration after preliminary results from Sunday’s poll showed its proxy party had secured an unexpected majority of the popular vote.

Around 7.6 million votes went to Phalang Pracharat with 94 per cent of ballots tallied, the Election Commission has said.

That gives it – and its prime ministerial candidate, junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha – a strong claim to legitimacy from a poll held under new junta-scripted rules.

It is more than 400,000 ballots ahead of Pheu Thai, the populist party toppled from power by the 2014 coup and affiliated with self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

But Pheu Thai still appeared set to become the largest party in the lower house, on track for 137 constituency seats compared to Phalang Pracharat’s 97, according to early figures.

Experts predict days, perhaps weeks, of messy negotiations, with both parties claiming the right to form a government and confused voters wondering who will come out on top.

Disqualifications of candidates and disputes over poll irregularities are likely to reshape the balance of the lower house before May 9, when final results are to be published.

As the horsetrading plays out, questions are also swirling over election irregularities, with millions of invalidated ballots, dodgy oversight of polling and bungling by election authorities that may have wildly skewed initial numbers.

The Election Commission is also releasing the results in a staggered fashion, claiming “human error” when reporters pointed out that a handful of provinces returned more ballots than the voter turnout.

Regional election monitor Anfrel announced on Tuesday in a statement that the initial ballot tabulation process was “deeply flawed”, which did “further damage to the perceived integrity” and trust in results.

More than 2.8 million ballots were invalidated – six per cent of the votes – a statistic Anfrel secretary-general Rohana Hettiarachchie called “high” compared to a usual average of is two to three per cent.

Prayut, a stern army chief who engaged in increasingly bizarre publicity stunts ahead of polls as part of an image-makeover, declined to comment on the election but was in playful form as he arrived for a cabinet meeting on Tuesday.

“They say if we throw the hopes and dreams in the air, it’s like releasing a kite to the sky,” he said cryptically in front of a group of music students who handed him a flute to play.

“If you want something, you need to do it yourself,” he added, in front of the assembled reporters, before walking into Government House playing the instrument.

PMs line-up

The serious business of forming a government still lies ahead.

Pheu Thai on Monday said as the majority party in the lower house it is entitled to try to put together an anti-junta coalition.

That would lean on the Future Forward party, which took over five million votes, emerging from nowhere to become the third biggest party in Thai politics.

The party was given impetus by the millennial vote who support its radical agenda of economic and military reform.

“We are willing to form a coalition with the party that got the most seats,” its telegenic figurehead Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit told reporters late on Monday as the horse-trading began.

Another smaller party, Bhumjaithai, the vehicle of a cabal of savvy billionaires whose allegiance shifts with the political winds, is likely to be crucial in swinging a lower house majority towards or against the junta party.

It has proposed Anutin Charnivirakul, 52, for prime minister and trailed promises of boosting rural incomes across the northeast by allowing medicinal cannabis to be grown.

Seen as a rare compromise figure across a political landscape bisected by personal hatreds, he was once a senior official in a Shinawatra party.

Thaksin sits at the heart of Thailand’s political rupture.

His parties had won all elections since 2001 with votes from the poor, in the process unsettling the Bangkok-centric elite and their royalist army allies who have struck back with coups and court cases.

On Monday he said in Hong Kong he believed the polls were “rigged” and riddled with “irregularities”.

MOST VIEWED

  • Reports: Rainsy barred from Jakarta flight

    Sam Rainsy was on Wednesday refused entry to a flight from Malaysia to Indonesia, media reported late on Wednesday. The “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue Party’s announced return to the Kingdom on Independence Day on Saturday failed to occur. Rainsy

  • Government studying EU’s preliminary report on EBA

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation on Wednesday said the government was studying the EU Commission’s preliminary report on the human rights situation in the Kingdom that could lead to a suspension of access to its “Everything But Arms” (EBA) agreement. The

  • Gov’t: Rainsy’s ‘coup plot’ a failure

    The government on Wednesday commended the Kingdom’s security forces for thwarting the attempted “coup plot” by former opposition leader Sam Rainsy through his announced return to Cambodia on November 9. The comments came as Rainsy, the “acting president” of the Supreme Court-dissolved Cambodia National Rescue

  • Rainsy blocked from boarding flight to Jakarta

    Sam Rainsy was on Wednesday refused entry to a flight from Malaysia to Indonesia, media reported late on Wednesday. The "acting president" of the Cambodia National Rescue Party's announced return to the Kingdom on Independence Day on Saturday failed to occur. Rainsy arrived in Kuala

  • Tour guides question animal release ban in Angkor moat

    The Khmer Angkor Tour Guide Association (Katga) called on the Apsara National Authority to reconsider its decision banning all animals from being released into the moat surrounding the Angkor Wat temple after the authority prohibited the action for the sake of visitors’ safety. An Apsara

  • Kingdom to import 200MW from Lao hydropower plant

    Cambodia plans to import 200MW of electricity from Laos’ Don Sahong hydropower plant early next year to curb power shortages this coming dry season, with the transmission line network scheduled for completion later this year, Ministry of Mines and Energy spokesman Victor Jona said. Jona,