As the dust settles in Thailand’s first election since a military coup in 2014, it appears that far from resolving the country’s perpetual political crisis, the election will only further contribute to instability.
The military, which contested the 24 March election under the newly formed Phalang Pracharat Party, intentionally designed the electoral system in order to retain power despite lacking popular support. Current regime leader General Prayut Chan-o-cha rebranded himself as a politician in order to enter the fray as Phalang Pracharat’s prime ministerial candidate.
Since 2001, political heavyweight Thaksin Shinawatra or his allies have won every single election, only to be repeatedly removed from power through military force or the politically compromised Constitutional Council.
This election was no different. Initial results showed that the Pheu Thai Party – a proxy for the now-exiled Shinawatra – won the most seats. Along with other pro-democracy parties, Pheu Thai is claiming that its coalition has enough seats form a majority in the National Assembly but not enough to overcome the rigged electoral system.
In addition to the democratically elected 500-seat National Assembly, the military’s latest Constitution adds a 250-seat Senate appointed by the current regime. The Senate and National Assembly both vote on the next prime minister, essentially giving Chan-o-cha a massive head start. Even with a slight majority in the National Assembly, Pheu Thai’s coalition wouldn’t be able to select Thailand’s next leader.
Phalang Pracharat’s strong showing was marred by widespread reports of election irregularities, including some areas where the total number of ballots cast exceeded the number of voters. Over five per cent of the total ballots cast were invalidated – meaning over 2 million votes won’t count. The United Kingdom and European Union both urged the Thai government to swiftly and transparently investigate these issues. Read more via The Interpreter