The preliminary results of Thailand’s general election on Sunday, have the country’s opposition parties – the Move Forward Party (MFP) and the Pheu Thai party – as clear winners.
With 99% of the votes counted, data from the Election Commission shows that the MFP has 113 constituency seats out of 400 seats where MPs are elected across the country.
The Pheu Thai Party led by Paetongtarn Shinawatra – the daughter of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra – has 112 seats.
“Today it is clear that the Move Forward Party has received a lot of support from people across the country,” Pita Limjaroenrat said on Twitter.
National elections are expected to oust the ruling conservative military-backed government of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha after nearly a decade. Prayuth’s United Thai Nation Party has 23 seats in the constituency.
But who leads the next government will not be decided by Sunday’s vote alone. The prime minister will be chosen in July in a joint session of the House and the 250-seat Senate, appointed by the junta.
Preliminary results are expected late in the evening, although the final number of seats for each party will not be officially confirmed for several weeks.
The election stakes
The main opposition Pheu Thai party, led by Paetongtarn Shinawatra, is projected to get the majority of seats in the 500-member lower house, where 400 lawmakers are directly elected. The winner must get at least 376 votes and no party is likely to do that on its own.
Both opposition parties are anti-military parties and the Senate consists of pro-military members.
What to know about the contenders
After the vote in Bangkok, Shinawatra showed no signs of nerves. “Today is going to be a good day. I have very positive energy about it,” said the 36-year-old reporter to reporters.
The progressive Move Forward Party, led by 42-year-old Pita Limjaroenrat, made strong gains, especially among young voters.
Both parties are fighting against opponents from the conservative, military-backed establishment that currently holds power.
Incumbent Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha is running for re-election with his newly formed conservative United Thai Nation Party. As one of those involved in Thailand’s 2014 military coup, Prayuth became premier after a controversial 2019 election.
Prawit Wongsuwan, who heads the Palang Pracharath Party, was also one of the main architects of the 2014 coup. He was a close ally of Prayuth, serving as his deputy prime minister, until they fell out.
About 52 million people are eligible to vote in the election to choose between progressive opposition parties and the incumbent government led by Prayuth who first took power in a coup in 2014.
Some 95,000 polling stations set up across the country opened at 8:00 am (0100 GMT) on Sunday.
This is the first election to be held since youth-led pro-democracy protests erupted in 2020.
Fears remain despite the winds of change
Despite opinion polls suggesting the possibility of government change, a history of military coups, court orders and the 2017 junta-drafted constitution fuel fears of continued military rule.
In the 2019 election, Pheu Thai won the majority of seats but its military-backed rival, the Palang Pracharath Party, entered a coalition with Prayuth as prime minister.
The Senate will simultaneously decide the fate of the country that has seen several coups in the last century and witnessed a series of street protests.
kb, rm, mf/wd (AFP, Reuters, AP)