7-party anti-junta coalition stakes claim to form next Thai government

A press conference announcing pro-democracy parties led by Pheu Thai and their intention to form the government at the Lancaster Hotel in Bangkok. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

BANGKOK - Thailand's Pheu Thai Party has announced a seven-party coalition which it claims has won a majority of Lower House seats in Sunday's general election, the first since a 2014 military coup.

The former ruling party, which was ousted from government by the coup, pipped the pro-junta Palang Pracharath Party to the post on Wednesday (March 27) by announcing it had roped in allies with at least 255 seats in the 500-seat House of Representatives.

Official election results will not be out until May 9, but Pheu Thai has bagged the highest number of Lower House seats.

Palang Pracharath Party, which has nominated junta chief and prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha for premiership, won the most votes in Sunday's election.

Joining Pheu Thai in a press conference on Wednesday morning, leaders of the Future Forward Party, Pheu Chart Party, Prachachart Party and Seri Ruam Thai Party and Thai People Power Party signed a joint statement in opposition to the ruling junta.

Pheu Thai said that representatives of a seventh party, the New Economics Party, could not make to the press conference but had committed to be part of the alliance.

Pheu Thai's de facto leader and prime ministerial candidate Sudarat Keyuraphan said it was in talks with other parties as well.

"The people have given us their mandate to stop the junta from perpetuating its power," she said. "We will do this while abiding by ethics."

She warned that from members of this coalition will likely face pressure through possible disqualification of their candidates who had won in Sunday's general election.

"No matter what happens, we believe those who share our ideology will stay with us. We hope that other parties will give first priority to what benefits this country and its people, and see that the country needs to be democratic, and join us."

Retired police chief Seripisut Temiyavet, who heads Seri Ruam Thai Party made an open call to the prime minister and junta chief: ""I request Mr Prayut to resign and not extend his power."

Thailand's new Constitution allow the junta to choose most of the 250 senators. Since the Senate has to vote on the choice of prime minister together with the 500-seat Lower House, Palang Pracharath theoretically needs only 126 Lower House seats to push Mr Prayut's nomination through.

Such a scenario creates a precarious minority government, said anti-junta leaders.

Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit warned at Wednesday's press conference: "Trying to form the minority government while just hoping for senators support will just bring chaos to this country and lead Thai society to a dead end."

So far, the Election Commission has only disclosed winners of the 350 constituency seats contested, without details on the winning margins. It has not revealed another list of 150 Lower House seats, which need to be allocated according to the proportion of national vote won by each party.

Based on this list, Pheu Thai won 137 constituency seats and Palang Pracharath 97. They are trailed by Bhumjaithai Party with 39 and the Democrat Party with 33, both likely coalition partners of Palang Pracharath. Future Forward Party has 30 constituency seats.

The coalition called on the election agency to disclose full preliminary results.

In a press conference hours later, Palang Pracharath secretary general Sontirat Sontijirawong said he remained confident that his party would form the government but "now is not the time to declare victory".

He criticised Pheu Thai's coalition for jumping the gun to "take advantage of the critical situation to boost their legitimacy and make the public believe they have the upper hand".

Party leader Uttama Savanayana said Palang Pracharath was in talks with possible coalition partners, but declined to name them.

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