The leader of a popular opposition party believes that Thailand’s opposition parties should stick together to oust the military from politics and establish a non-military aligned government following elections in May.
Thailand’s election, scheduled for May 14, is shaping up to be a battle between pro-military conservatives and the populist opposition led by the Pheu Thai Party and its ally, the Move Forward Party. Pheu Thai-backed governments were deposed by military coups in 2006 and 2014.
“It’s very clear that the current opposition, not the military-backed party that staged the coup, is the right answer for Thailand’s challenges,” Move Forward leader Pita Limjaroenrat, 42, told Reuters backstage at the gathering.
Pita, whose progressive party is popular among young voters, views an alliance with Pheu Thai as critical to defeating Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha after more than eight years in power.
Alliance of pro-democracy parties
Former army chief Prayuth took power in a coup in 2014 and remained prime minister following the latest election in 2019. He is running in the forthcoming election, although current surveys show him trailing both Pheu Thai and Move Forward, who have maintained first and second place.
Move Forward has a substantial support base among urban voters, especially those who participated in a youth-led protest movement that arose in 2020 to confront Prayuth. Pita stated that Pheu Thai’s support base was complemented by the working class and farmers in the rural north and northeast.
Pita stated that an alliance of pro-democracy parties was required to overcome the outsized influence of the 250-seat upper house Senate, which was appointed by the military government prior to the last election and will vote to select the next prime minister alongside the 500-seat elected lower house after the May 14 election.
“If the lower house is packed as much as possible with (those adhering to) democratic norms and rules, we will be able to remove the conflict of appointed upper house politics versus elected lower house politics,” he said.
“I am confident that we will see a significant change here in Thailand,” he said.
Thailand’s Military Control
Thailand’s military has long been involved in politics, orchestrating multiple coups throughout the country’s modern history. The most recent military coup occurred in 2014, when the military overthrew the elected government and formed a military junta.
Many limits were placed on freedom of expression, assembly, and the press under the military junta, and political opposition was suppressed. The military also had authority over the judiciary and other important institutions.
Thailand had its first general election since the military coup in 2019, resulting in the formation of a democratic government. However, the military retains enormous control in the country, with the military-appointed Senate having the authority to vote on the prime minister’s appointment.
While Thailand has taken some steps towards democracy, the military continues to play an important role in the country’s politics and government.
Thailand’s electoral system is complicated, with both direct and indirect elections. According to the country’s Constitution, the Parliament is divided into two houses: the House of Representatives (the lower house) and the Senate (the upper house).
Members of the House of Representatives are elected using a mixed-member proportional representation system in which voters vote twice: once for a constituency representative and once for a party list. The House of Representatives has 350 seats, with 350 constituency seats and up to 150 party-list seats. To be eligible for party-list seats, a party must win at least one constituency seat.
Members of the Senate, on the other hand, are both nominated and elected by the military junta. The military junta appoints 200 of the Senate’s 250 seats, while the people elect 50.
Thailand’s most recent general election was held in March 2019, after several years of military rule. Some observers saw the election as flawed because to restrictions on opposition parties, the use of military-appointed senators, and claims of voter fraud. Following the election, a coalition government led by the Palang Pracharath Party was formed.