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Will the military elite permit the opposition to win the election in Thailand?

The Move Forward Party wins the election, but a Senate that was selected by the military and Thaksin Shinawatra’s ambitions could prevent it from taking office.

At the entrance of Pita Limjaroenrat, the opposition politician who led his party to a shock win over the military-backed factions that had controlled Thai politics for almost ten years, the throng of thousands in central Bangkok exploded into loud cheers.

The colorful 42-year-old businessman led a brief victory march on Monday from Bangkok’s Democracy Monument to a plaza in front of the capital’s Metropolitan Administration Office, where he announced a “new day, bright with hope” for Thailand while grinning and waving from the back of a pick-up truck.When we all work together, anything is possible in our nation, he told a sea of fans wearing the distinctive orange of his Move Forward Party.

“Pita Limjaroenrat will take office as Thailand’s next prime minister, and together, we will soon transform this nation,”

Move Forward had been tallied as the largest winner in the Sunday general election by the Elections Commission hours earlier. In its inaugural election campaign, the progressive party won 151 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives by running on an audacious platform of changes for the monarchy and the military.

With 141 seats, the populist opposition Pheu Thai came in second. Now that the two parties have agreed, coalition negotiations may start. The royalist-military elite, who have orchestrated two coups in the past 20 years, are not expected to cede power easily, despite their astounding majority.Move Forward faces numerous obstacles on the way to Bangkok’s Government House.

Parliamentary regulations that provide a Senate nominated by the military a disproportionate influence in selecting the next prime minister are foremost among them. However, Pheu Thai’s goals, a potential coalition partner for Move Forward, could still prove to be a challenge.

Trying times

In a nation that has experienced numerous coups followed by waves of uprisings, analysts predict a protracted process that may come to a standstill and cause new instability, potentially opening the door for the military to intervene once more.Punchada Sirivunnabood, an associate professor of social sciences and humanities at Mahidol University in Bangkok, warned that if Move Forward is unable to form a government, there may be party collapse and even a military takeover. Thailand will soon face difficult circumstances. I’m hoping that the process of forming the government will go well and that there won’t be any more fighting. The constant cycle of protests, coups, and protests has grown old to everyone.

There are valid grounds for worry.

Several senators have already stated that they would oppose a coalition led by Move Forward. The 250-member upper chamber, which is able to vote on the prime minister, was appointed during military rule. To win the position, a candidate must receive 376 votes from both chambers combined. That number must come exclusively from the lower chamber if they want to overturn the Senate.

However, as of right now, it appears that Move Forward will receive no more than 310 votes.

The party’s promise to amend legislation pertaining to the monarchy, an institution valued in Thailand’s constitution, is the Senate’s main concern. Article 112, Thailand’s harsh lese-majeste law, which punishes insults to the monarchy with up to 15 years in prison, will be modified as part of the plans. Move Forward, which supported the party in Sunday’s elections, has accused the present ruling coalition of using the law to silence dissent, saying that at least 242 members of a sizable youth-led protest movement are currently facing charges.

Only 15 years old is the eldest among them.

“Move Forward and Mr. Pita previously declared they would abolish Article 112, which would have an impact on the monarchy. Senator Jadet Insawang told the Bangkok Post in an interview that this was unacceptable. “I will reject Mr. Pita’s nomination [for prime minister] because I will uphold the constitution and my oath,” he continued.Move Forward still has two months to find the backing it requires.

Early in August, once the Elections Commission has formally verified the results of the election, is when the vote for prime minister is anticipated to take place.

We will reach a deadlock if they don’t get to 376, said Napon Jatsuripitak, a visiting fellow at the ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute in Singapore. “When the vote for the prime minister and speaker of the parliament is held in two months, there may be numerous rounds of voting in which no candidate receives 376 votes. Additionally, there is no time limit [on the process] according to the Constitution.

The ‘alternative options’ at Pheu Thai

If negotiations come to a standstill, Pheu Thai might assume the helm in an effort to establish a government without Move Forward.

The populist party, which, along with its predecessors, has won every election since 2001, declared during the election campaign that it will not alter Article 112. Many believed that the position represented an effort to mend fences with the royalist-military elite after nearly two decades of failure in its quest to rule the Southeast Asian nation.

In a military takeover that was widely believed to have the support of the palace, the party’s founder and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown in 2006, and his sister Yingluck’s administration was overthrown by the army the following year. After receiving prison sentences for accusations they allege are politically motivated, they both currently reside in exile.

Pre-election polls had Pheu Thai leading Move Forward, but experts claim that Pheu Thai’s position on Article 112 and its hesitation to deny rumors of a coalition with royalist-military parties cost it popularity. In the end, Move Forward won seats in a number of regions that were previously thought to be Pheu Thai strongholds, including all but one of Bangkok’s 33 seats and seven of the ten seats in the province of Chiang Mai’s north.

The Move Forward Party is not like Phu Thai. It has additional choices. One of those choices, according to Napon, would be to work with other parties, such as the Palang Pacharat, which is led by the retired general Prawit Wongsuwan. In the election held on Sunday, the Palang Pracharat Party took home 40 seats. They may also partner with the Bhumjaithai Party, which garnered 71 seats, and the Chart Thai Pattana Party, which garnered 10 seats.

“None of these parties would total 376 anyhow. But they might be able to win the Senate’s backing since General Prawit would probably be able to persuade a few senators given that he was involved in their initial appointment, he claimed.

Given that many of the party’s members despise Prawit and the military, such a move by Pheu Thai would be perilous for the organization. Additionally, following the vote on Sunday, Pheu Thai, which is currently run by Thaksin’s 36-year-old daughter Paetongtarn Shinawatra, declared that it has accepted Move Forward’s request to “create a democratic alliance”. In order to build a new administration, it went on to say that it had “no plan to compete with Move Forward.”

Thaksin’s comeback

Nevertheless, other onlookers were dubious, particularly since Thaksin had previously stated that he wanted to return to Thailand in July.

The 71-year-old, who has lived in exile for 17 years, appeared to petition the King Maha Vajiralongkorn for permission to return in a tweet shortly before the election, claiming he was growing older and yearned to be with his family.

According to Titipol Phakdeewanich, professor of political science at Ubon Ratchathani University in eastern Thailand, “a lot depends on Thaksin’s determination to return to the country.” “If that were the case, Thaksin and Pheu Thai would seek to run the country. But if they join a coalition led by Move Forward, they essentially give up negotiation leverage. And the only way they can do it again is by working along with the current military-led parties, like Palang Pracharat.

Despite not feeling “too optimistic” about the process of forming a government, Titipol said he was nonetheless encouraged by the overwhelming backing for Move Forward.

The party not only gained the most seats via direct election, but also the popular vote. In the overall vote for party-list seats, about 14.3 million of the 39 million voters who participated in the election on Sunday chose to support the Move Forward.

While Pheu Thai received 10.9 million votes.

Even in locations where Move Forward’s local candidates were defeated by parties with military affiliations, Move Forward won the public vote. For instance, Move Forward won the popular vote in the northeastern Buri Ram province, where Bhumjaithai won all 10 seats that were up for direct election. According to The Nation newspaper, it received 238,341 votes compared to Bhumjaithai’s 168,209 votes.

Titipol proclaimed, “This is a big turning point for Thailand,” cautioning against any risky attempts by Pheu Thai or the Senate to overthrow an MFP-led administration.

He claimed that Pheu Thai would jeopardize the country’s “entire future in politics” and that any attempt by the Senate to overturn the vote of the people would result in widespread unrest, especially among young people.

“It’s also not easy for the military to stage a coup this time, because they can see that the energy and power of the supporters of Move Forward is rather different,” the speaker added.

Move Forward also seems optimistic that it can use its historic victory to gain power.

Pita stated to reporters on Monday that he was “not worried” in response to the question of if the MFP was worried about actions taken against him or the party.

But I’m not sloppy, he added. He cautioned that, given the election’s consensus, anyone considering overturning the outcome or forming a minority administration would have to pay a significant price.

“And I believe the Thai people would not permit that to happen.”

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