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Legal Challenges Expected After Thai Election Results Are Posted


In late March, Thailand held a general election. It was the first election since the military seized power in 2014. Now we have the results. No single party has a majority, but the results do dim hopes of an anti-military coalition forming a government. Michael Sullivan in Bangkok reports, a lot of people feel cheated.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: After preliminary results in March showed an anti-military coalition might have enough seats to form a government, the much maligned, junta-appointed Election Commission called a timeout and said final results would come this week. They have, and...

PAUL CHAMBERS: To no one's surprise, the Election Commission has found that the pro-junta coalition of parties has more seats than the anti-junta parties.

SULLIVAN: That's Paul Chambers, a lecturer at Naresuan University. Twenty-seven parties made it into parliament as a result of the Election Commission's controversial formula for choosing winners, some with just a single seat. And, says Chambers...

CHAMBERS: Those one-seat parties are proxy parties of the junta.

SULLIVAN: But the opposition isn't happy with the Election Commission's new formula, especially the new and extremely popular anti-military Future Forward Party, which got seven fewer seats than expected, enough to help tip the scales in the pro-military party's favor.

THANATHORN JUANGROONGRUANGKIT: I'm convinced that this decision is politically motivated, and it is definitely unconstitutional.

SULLIVAN: That's Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the leader of Future Forward, which finished a strong third in the election. His party and the Pheu Thai Party, the latest iteration of parties tied to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, are challenging the ruling. But Thanathorn isn't hopeful.

JUANGROONGRUANGKIT: The Election Commission, they are appointed by the military junta. And members of the constitutional court also appointed by the military junta. So the likelihood of them to prosecute the Election Commission is not very high. But we have to show the people that we have done the best we could.

SULLIVAN: In the meantime, even if the pro-military parties are able to form a government, these strong showing by the opposition is going to create big problems, says Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

THITINAN PONGSUDHIRAK: This means a kind of divided parliament and a weak, unwieldy, unruly, fractious coalition government backed by the military. But that means that they can be the government, but they will have a difficult time governing.

SULLIVAN: A difficult time governing, even though the rules, Thitinan says, had been written for one side to win. But he says voters had other ideas.

PONGSUDHIRAK: The electorate continues to vote for the Thaksin party, but also the electorate has voted in significant numbers for a brand-new Future Forward Party. Yeah, the military parties also got some votes, but they should have got a lot more. They had government policy, they had military backing, all these other agencies behind them, like the Election Commission. They should have had an overwhelming victory.

SULLIVAN: And because they didn't, he sees a government that may not last its full term, creating more political instability, not less. For NPR News, I'm Michael Sullivan in Bangkok.


Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.