Thailand, a country suffering with a decade of military-backed dictatorship, was at a crossroads when the sole nominee for prime minister failed to gather enough votes to form a government. This result casts doubt on Thailand’s democratic future, especially given the enormous support progressive opposition parties gained in the last election. The rejection of the nomination illustrates the ongoing conflict between the ruling establishment and public aspirations.
A Shock Election Result
In a surprise turn of events, the newcomer party Move Forward won the elections, collecting the most seats and popular vote. The party capitalised on growing dissatisfaction with the country’s government by promising broad reforms in a variety of sectors, including the military, the economy, decentralisation of authority, and even monarchy reforms—an matter long considered taboo in Thai politics.
Despite significant public support, Move Forward’s leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, was unable to secure the necessary parliamentary votes. Pita earned 324 votes, falling short of the 376 needed for a majority in both the upper and lower houses of the National Assembly. As a result, the House Speaker declared that another round of voting would be held at a later date, extending the political uncertainty in Thailand.
In Thailand, the question of royal reform remains highly sensitive. Section 112 of the Criminal Code makes criticism of the monarchy a crime punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Some senators and conservative parties refused to support Pita since his party intended to change or repeal this controversial law. Their approach demonstrates a deep commitment to preserving the monarchy and the status quo.
Despite the challenges that the progressive movement encountered, Move Forward’s policies received significant backing from the country’s disappointed youth. Frustrated by years of autocratic politics, a faltering economy, and a difficult job market, young Thais saw the party’s platform as a means of achieving a more democratic and inclusive future. The record attendance in the May election was a stark rebuke to Thailand’s military-backed establishment, which has ruled the country since 2014.
In Thai politics, the way to a more progressive and democratic time frame remains uncertain. A party or alliance must gain a majority of 376 seats in both the lower and upper houses of parliament to form a government. Even with a coalition of seven other opposition parties, Move Forward’s majority was insufficient to achieve this goal. The unelected 250-member Senate, appointed by the military, is critical. This, however, has proven to be a serious impediment in Pita’s quest for prime ministerial power.
Pita said on Twitter, “The voting is not for Pita, not for MFP, but it is for Thailand to move forward into normalcy of democratic system, just like any democratic countries in this world.”
The failure of Thailand’s single candidate for prime minister to obtain enough votes is a blow for the country’s democracy. The electoral success of the progressive movement is at stake, and the outcome may determine whether Thailand can evolve towards a more democratic and inclusive government.