Pro-military party in the lead


BANGKOK: Partial results from the election in Thailand showed a pro-military party slightly ahead of the populist party leading a “democratic front”, an unexpected and – for many – stunning outcome from the country’s first poll since a 2014 army coup.

With 93% of overall votes counted, the Election Commission reported the pro-military party Palang Pracharat, which is seeking to keep junta chief Prayuth Chan-ocha in power, was leading with 7.59 million votes.

Trailing with 7.12 million votes was Pheu Thai, a party linked to exiled former prime minister Thak­sin Shinawatra, whose loyalists have won every election since 2001.

The numbers were for the popular vote, but these did not reflect parliamentary constituency seats that would ultimately be won.

Pheu Thai could still win the lion’s share of these because of its concentrated popularity in the north and northeast of the country.

Nevertheless, there was dismay among many voters who had hoped that the poll would loosen the grip on power that traditional elites and the military have held in a country that has one of the highest measures of inequality in the world.

At Pheu Thai’s headquarters in Bangkok, the mood fluctuated from cheerful to quiet disbelief.

“I didn’t think this is likely. I don’t think this is what the people wanted,” said Pheu Thai supporter Pol­not­cha Chakphet.

A #PrayforThailand hashtag started trending on Twitter as the results trickled out, and some people tweeted that they would leave the country if Prayuth was returned to power to remain prime minister.

The Election Commission chairman said unofficial results would be announced this afternoon.

The commission said turnout was 66%, based on 90% of the vote counted.

The royal family, which wields great influence and commands the devotion of millions of Thais, played a part in the election though how far it influenced the outcome was unclear.

The non-aligned Democrat Party, which many had thought could hold the balance of power between pro-military and “democratic front” factions, appeared to have been deserted by many voters.

Its leader, former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, announced his resignation within five hours of the polls closing.

Thailand has been racked for the past 15 years by crippling street protests both by Thaksin’s opponents and supporters that destabilised governments and hamstrung business.

The country has been under direct military rule for nearly five years since then-army chief Prayuth overthrew an elected government linked to populist Thaksin, who himself was thrown out by the army in 2006. — Reuters

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