Thailand has witnessed a political transformation following a sweeping victory for the main opposition parties in the general election, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the nation’s political future and its economy.
Sweeping victory in Phuket
In a sweeping victory, the Move Forward Party (MFP) dominated all three constituencies in Phuket during the General Election, according to early unofficial results disclosed.
The historic town of Phuket, Koh Kaew, and Ratsada—areas collectively known as Constituency 1—witnessed MFP’s Somchart Techathavorncharoen clinching an unofficial win. Having been assigned the number two on the ballot, Somchart managed to amass an impressive lead, speaking later of his gratitude towards the people of Phuket and pledging to further progressive policy issues in collaboration with the Progressive Party.
Runner-up of Constituency 1 was Piya Sidokbuap from the United Thai Nation Party (พรรครวมไทยสร้างชาติ), trailing Somchart by a marginal amount, followed by Jirayut Songyos of the Palang Pracharath Party who also demonstrated a commendable performance.
Constituency 2, which spans across Wichit, Chalong, Rawai, Karon, Patong, and Kamala, saw MFP’s Chalermpong Saengdee emerging victorious. The second spot was bagged by Nuanchan Samart of the Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party, with Wongsakorn Chanakij of the Bhumjaithai Party claiming the third position.
In the final constituency, Constituency 3, encompassing Thalang District and the Kathu subdistrict, the MFP’s winning streak continued with Thitikan Thitipruekthikul as the forerunner. Following closely behind were Orathai Kerdsup from the Chat Phatthana Kla Party and Wiwat Jindapol from the Bhumjaithai Party, respectively securing the second and third places.
While these results are not final, they present a clear indication of the prevailing political sentiment in Phuket. It is a notable moment for the MFP, who are set to make significant inroads in the political landscape following this successful electoral turnout.
Bhumjaithai Dominates Krabi
In a major development during the Thai General Elections held on May 14th, 2023, the Bhumjaithai Party has reportedly swept all three constituencies of the Krabi province according to unofficial results. In contrast, the candidates from the Democrat Party suffered significant setbacks. However, a surprising victory emerged from a military-centric voting unit where a candidate from the Move Forward Party managed to secure a win.
News reporters covering the election revealed that as the vote-counting began in Krabi after the polling stations closed, it became clear that candidates from the Bhumjaithai Party were in the lead in all three constituencies. The frontrunners included Kittikun Kittithonkul in Constituency 1, Thiradet Tangmunkonkit in Constituency 2, and Srithong Kiao-Kan in Constituency 3. They consistently outperformed their main competitors from the Democrat Party, gradually widening their lead.
Among the Democrat Party candidates were Thanawat Phukao Luang for Constituency 1, Sakon Kiao-Kan, a three-term former Member of Parliament for Constituency 2, and Miss Pimrapee Phunwichitkul, a former list MP and daughter of Mr. Pichet Phunwichitkul for Constituency 3. The unofficial results indicated that the Democrat Party candidates were defeated in all three constituencies. Notably, over 90% of eligible voters cast their vote in these elections, exceeding the target set by the Election Commission.
However, an unexpected result emerged from voting unit 12 of Constituency 3, located within the vocational college of Khlong Thom, in Khlong Thom Tai subdistrict, Khlong Thom district. This unit is primarily utilized by soldiers from the 15th Infantry Battalion. In a surprising turn of events, Suphruksa Meelam, a candidate from the Move Forward Party, managed to secure victory over Srithong Kiao-Kan of the Bhumjaithai Party with a tally of 124 votes to 90 votes. This victory was quite significant as it is rare for a non-government candidate to win in a voting unit with a high military presence, even though some local residents also exercised their voting rights here.
Upon hearing the results, Suphruksa expressed his immense joy, particularly because his campaign centered around the welfare policies for soldiers. The positive response from the military community was an encouraging sign. This unexpected outcome indicates a possible shift in voter sentiment, potentially influencing future Thai politics.
Not a smooth sailing
Thailand’s political landscape has experienced a seismic shift with the landslide victory of opposition parties. The triumph of Move Forward and Pheu Thai, winning 151 and 141 seats respectively, signals an unmistakable public desire for change, challenging the military establishment’s long-standing influence. This significant shift, however, does not automatically translate into a straightforward transition of power.
Thailand’s political constitution, drafted and approved by the military in 2016, presents a significant hurdle to the newly victorious opposition. The unique structure of the Thai parliament, with 250 seats of the upper house reserved for the military, necessitates that the opposition secure the backing of 376 of the 500 lower house seats to form the government. Even with the Bhumjaithai Party’s potential support, the opposition falls short of this requirement, indicating a period of intricate negotiations ahead.
However, forming a new government might not be smooth sailing for the opposition, due to the military-crafted constitution of 2016. While the House of Representatives comprises 500 directly elected seats, the 250 seats of the Senate are reserved for the military. As a result, any party vying for the Prime Minister’s post requires the support of over half of the combined 750 members from both houses. Therefore, while pro-military parties would need the backing of just 126 lower house members, the opposition would require the support of 376 lower house seats, a hurdle that even the third-placed Bhumjaithai Party, with 71 seats, can’t help surmount.
The opposition victory also raises questions about the future direction of Thai policy. The Move Forward party campaigned on a platform of substantial reform, including the abolition of military conscription, a reduction in military spending, and a curtailment of the monarchy’s powers. On the economic front, the party plans to maintain a loose fiscal policy, providing debt relief for farmers and subsidised housing loans. However, achieving these goals may require significant compromise in a potentially fractured parliament.
This election’s economic implications are equally critical. The Q1 GDP figures showed a strong recovery, primarily driven by a resurgence in tourism spending. Should peace and stability persist, the economy is expected to continue its upward trajectory. However, the revival could be halted if political unrest resurfaces. Previous protests in 2013-14 resulted in a 15% drop in visitor arrivals and a 0.7% decline in GDP growth.
Thailand’s general election results have ignited a spark of change, but the flame’s path is yet to be determined. The balance between political transformation and economic stability