How Thailand’s military old guard might react to the election results

Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of the Move Forward Party (center), at a rally in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 18, 2023.

Valeria Mongelli |: Bloomberg |: Getty Images:

Thailand’s preliminary election results were a victory for the progressive Move Forward party, but its reforms threaten conservative forces that could move to prevent the Democratic Party from ruling.

Move Forward leader and prime ministerial candidate Pita Limjaroenrat has announced a six-party coalition that includes Pheu Thai, the populist, pro-democracy party that came second in the polls.

This gives the coalition 310 seats in the 500-seat lower house of parliament. Whoever the coalition nominates as prime minister must win 376 votes in parliament, a combination of the 250-seat, military-appointed Senate and lower house. The vote of the Prime Minister is expected in August, when the Electoral Commission will confirm the results of the elections.

Analysts say Move Forward faces a tough task of securing the remaining 66 votes because of its controversial proposed policies: a new constitution, ending military dominance in politics, ending mandatory military redundancies, ending business monopolies and revising a “significance” that punishes offences. the law. to the king by imprisonment.

The Move Forward agenda is an affront and a frontal challenge to established centers of power.

Tithinan Pongsudhirak

Professor at Chulalongkorn University

The Move Forward party recently said that potential coalition partners do not need to support its position on Lese-Majeste, as it plans to present it to parliament independently;

Ahead of the prime minister’s vote, political observers expect mixed results, including the possibility of coercive intervention by the country’s powerful military-monarchist alliance.

“The push-forward agenda is an affront and a frontal challenge to established centers of power,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science and a senior fellow at the Institute for Security and International Studies.

“It’s probably a matter of when and how, not if they will strike back.”

The facility led to aggravation

Thailand elections.  people have advocated for change and reform, says the professor

“Courts may find ways to nullify enough wins by Move Forward and Pheu Thai to shift the balance of power,” analysts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) said in a separate report.

There’s also the possibility that Peeta himself could be a target.

He was recently charged with a constitutional violation for being a minority shareholder in a now-defunct media outlet while serving as an MP, which he denies. That could be potential grounds for his disqualification and allow the less radical Pheu Tha to lead the coalition, according to Pongsudhirak.

There is precedent for Pita’s case to be cleared, noted Napisa Veitulkiat, a political scientist at Naresuan University.

Conservative forces have all the tools at their disposal to prevent Move Forward from taking power.

Susannah Patton

Lowe Institute

Pheu Thai Betrayal

Led by the daughter of former Prime Minister Thaksin, Pheu Thai is an opposition party that is more cautious about its messaging about the monarchy. Analysts say there is a chance it could break the ranks of Move Forward to work with pro-military parties to negotiate strategic gains.

“Given Pheu Thai’s desire for power, the party leadership may view progressive positions and threats to the monarchy as a political liability,” the CFR said in its report. “If Pheu Thai abandons his democratic peers in his pursuit of power, the Bumjeitai Party is likely to play a significant role in forming a royal coalition.”

Thailand elections.  many want out of military rule

The Bhumjaithai, known for their strong support for the legalization of marijuana, are considered ideologically flexible, as they support the government but are open to working with democratic parties.

There is one main reason Phew Thai might abandon Move Forward, Pongsudhirak said, and that is to “make a coalition deal that would include Thaksin’s return from exile to Thailand with lenient terms on his conviction and prison terms.”

Doing so, however, means long-lasting consequences for Pheu Thai’s character.

“Pheu Thai will be at risk of electoral punishment by pro-democracy voters who are key supporters of Pheu Thai in the future,” Veitulkiat warned.

Playing a wait and see game

Thailand market may get delayed post-election 'bounce', Credit Suisse says

Having just recovered from a recession caused by the pandemic, officials may also be wary of street protests that threaten investor confidence and economic growth.

“While the Thai military has previously been willing to risk protests in rural northeastern Thailand, Move Forward’s commanding victories in Bangkok and other urban centers may make the military think twice,” Patton said. He referred to comments from the Thai Chamber of Commerce that indicated business groups’ desire for a stable government rather than another period of political turmoil.

“Therefore, the establishment may judge that allowing Move Forward to take over is a smarter tactical move,” he continued. “In previous periods of instability, such as the 2014 coup, the establishment acted when it felt all options had been exhausted.”

“This time, decision makers can calculate that they can let events take their course and use legal options to act later if red lines are crossed,” Patton added.

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