Thailand polls: Most results confirmed, but probes continue

EC deputy secretary-general Sawang Boonmee (above)
EC deputy secretary-general Sawang Boonmee (above)

Election body has a year to probe claims of wrongdoing, which could affect final tally

Thailand's Election Commission (EC) yesterday endorsed the majority of results in the March 24 national ballot, but warned that it was still investigating allegations of wrongdoing that might affect the final tally.

EC deputy secretary-general Sawang Boonmee says the commission has confirmed the results for 349 out of 350 constituencies that were contested.

Winners of another 150 Lower House seats - to be allocated according to a proportional formula - will be disclosed today.

Meanwhile, the EC is still probing some 400 allegations of wrongdoing during the polls, he said. "The EC has the power to investigate these over one year."

The election results would bring much-needed certainty to the kingdom ruled by the military since a 2014 coup and in limbo following an election which produced close results between two opposing factions.

The former ruling Pheu Thai party won the highest number of constituency seats - 136. But the pro-junta Palang Pracharath Party, which is trying to return former coup leader and Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to office, claimed to have the people's mandate because it won the most votes - over eight million.

The political tussle entered a pause period in recent weeks for the lavish coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, which ended on Monday.

Although the EC is legally bound to release 95 per cent of the results by Thursday, it has been under fire for mistakes and alleged meddling to favour parties aligned with the ruling junta.

One constituency contest will be re-run later this month in the northern Chiang Mai province because a candidate was banned after giving money to a monk.

EC deputy secretary-general Sawang Boonmee says the commission has confirmed results in 349 out of 350 constituencies that were contested. Winners of another 150 Lower House seats - to be allocated according to a proportional formula - will be disclosed today.

Shortly after the March 24 election, Pheu Thai led a joint press conference declaring that its seven-party alliance had won at least 255 Lower House seats, enough in a conventional parliamentary democracy to form a new government.

Among its key members are the youthful Future Forward Party, which captured the attention of first-time voters to become the third-best performer in the election, after Pheu Thai and Palang Pracharath.

Palang Pracharath intends to form its own alliance. It is aided by a Constitution that gives the military a key say over the future Parliament. For a period of five years, 250 senators mostly picked by the junta will vote together with the Lower House on a future prime minister. This means Prime Minister Prayut theoretically needs only 126 votes from the Lower House to extend his premiership.

But this borderline number will create a precarious premiership, given that it will have a minority of seats in the Lower House.

The local media has reported that several members of the military-appointed legislative assembly, as well as the military-dominated Cabinet, have already tendered their resignations - likely in anticipation of being picked as senators.

According to Matichon newspaper, they include former military personnel and deputy prime ministers Prajin Junthong and Chatchai Sarikulya.

Meanwhile, Future Forward has come under legal pressure over an array of alleged election infractions, which it says are attempts by the junta to cut down the political opposition.

Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit has been charged with sedition. He is also being investigated for allegedly owning shares in a media company while running for election - which is forbidden. He has denied both allegations. And party secretary-general Piyabutr Saengkanokkul has been charged with computer crime and contempt of court.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 08, 2019, with the headline 'Most results confirmed, but probes continue'. Print Edition | Subscribe