Thai opposition forms alliance, demands junta step aside

Seven Thai parties said on Wednesday that they formed a “democratic front” after a disputed election, claiming the opposition won a majority in the lower house of parliament, and the right to try and form a government.

However, the coalition will likely fall short of electing a prime minister, which requires a combined vote with the upper house of parliament, the Senate, which is entirely appointed by the ruling generals that in 2014 overthrew an elected Pheu Thai party government.

The outcome of the election remains shrouded in doubt with unofficial results delayed until at least Friday and allegations of vote-buying and irregularities in the counting of ballots.

“We want to stop the regime from hanging onto power,” Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial candidate Sudarat Keyuraphan said at a press conference announcing the coalition.

The Election Commission – appointed by the ruling military government’s hand-picked legislature – delayed the release of a full preliminary vote count on election night and then again on Monday. The commission has now said it will release its final preliminary results on Friday.

Partial results still indicate that the pro-army Palang Pracharat party would have enough votes to keep military government leader Prayuth Chan-ocha on as prime minister.

But an opposition alliance majority in the lower house, the House of Representatives, could lead to deadlock.

‘Numbers still moving’

Sudarat said with the other parties, the opposition alliance would win at least 255 lower house seats, based on calculations drawn from partial results.

“Although right now numbers are still moving, we’re certain we will have at least 255 seats among ourselves,” Sudarat said, adding Pheu Thai was also in talks with other parties.

“We declare the democratic front who opposes military rule commands the majority in the House.”

Pheu Thai’s secretary-general, Phumtham Wechayachai, told reporters the democratic front now includes Future Forward party, Pheu Chart, Prachachart, Seri Ruam Thai, Thai People Power and New Economy.

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, 40, and his Future Forward party attracted the attention of the estimated seven million first-time voters frustrated at the country’s 15 years of political division. But he was charged with a cybercrime prior to the vote and his own future remains unclear.

“We will cooperate with parties that are at this press conference today no matter what obstacles ahead… We are ready to stop the regime from holding on to power,” Thanathorn said.

Pro-military advantage

The pro-military Palang Pracharat party, which has won 97 lower house seats, has also claimed the right to form the next government because of its lead on Pheu Thai in the popular votes.

The vote for prime minister will likely take place sometime in May and give Palang Pracharath’s candidate, the current military government leader Prayuth, a considerable advantage.

Al Jazeera’s Scott Heidler, reporting from Bangkok, said a clearer picture will emerge on Friday when preliminary results from the various elections across the country are released.

But he added: “The official results won’t come out until May 9 at the very latest – so a lot can happen between now and then.” 

The Election Commission has unexpectedly delayed releasing official results, and questions are now swirling over election irregularities with an election monitor saying the tabulation was “deeply flawed”.

Nearly two million invalidated ballots, weak polling oversight, and bungling by election authorities may have wildly skewed initial numbers.

SOURCE:
Al Jazeera and news agencies

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