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Thailand’s Move Forward Party upsets military establishment with election victory

FROM THE DVB NEWSROOM

Thai voters overwhelmingly backed pro-democracy parties on Sunday in a stunning defeat for the military-backed government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. The Move Forward Party (MFP) is projected to win 151 parliamentary seats while the populist Pheu Thai Party came in a close second with 141 seats. The pro-military parties – Prayut’s former party Palang Pracharath and newest political vehicle United Thai Nation – are only predicted to win 41 and 36 seats respectively. 

The MFP victory comes after pro-democracy protests swept Thailand in 2020 after its predecessor Future Forward Party was dissolved by Thailand’s Constitutional Court. Thai democracy activists have since called for the power of the military and the monarchy to be curtailed. The MFP has vowed to remove the military from politics and amend Thailand’s lèse-majesté law, or Article 112, which forbids any criticism of the royal family. MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat announced his intention to form a coalition government with the Pheu Thai Party, led by Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the youngest daughter of exiled former PM Thaksin Shinawatra and niece of exiled former PM Yingluck Shinawatra, Khaosod English reported. Both Shinawatras were removed from their positions in military coups in 2006 and 2014.

Significant hurdles remain before the MFP can nominate Pita as its prime minister and lead the next government. The role is decided by both the 500 elected members in the House of Representatives and the 250-member Senate, which was appointed by Prayut before the 2019 election. The MFP coalition needs 376 votes between the Senate and House of Representatives to successfully nominate Pita as prime minister. The MFP has taken the strongest stance on Burma out of all of Thailand’s major parties since the 2021 military coup. Its members of parliament have publicly criticized the Thai military and its ties with the military regime in Burma. Pita has been outspoken on human rights abuses and has called for the restoration of democracy in Burma. “Thailand has been colored orange [MFP color] after 99 percent of the votes have been counted. Congratulations Thailand!” exclaimed pro-democracy activist Thinzar Shunlei Yi on her Facebook page. Many Burmese hope that the new Thai government in Bangkok will take a stronger position against the military regime in Naypyidaw and provide greater support for refugees entering Thailand.

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