Both houses of Thailand's parliament on Wednesday elected Prayuth Chan-ocha as the country's next prime minister.
Prayuth comfortably reached the 375-vote threshold, more than half of the 750-member parliament, needed to win the premiership. Thailand's prime minister is chosen in a joint vote of the 500-seat House and the 250-seat Senate, whose members were appointed by the junta.
The vote officially restored civilian rule in Thailand after more than five years under the junta leader. The 65-year-old retired general, who was nominated by a military-backed coalition led by the Palang Pracharath party, had been expected to keep his post under a new political system introduced by the junta, which critics say is meant to prolong the military dominance in Thai politics.
Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the leader of Thailand's progressive Future Forward Party, was Prayuth's sole opponent and represented an alliance of anti-military parties.
The parliamentary vote for prime minister came 10 weeks after a general election, which opposition parties say was heavily rigged in favor of the pro-army parties.
Support for Prayuth
The Palang Pracharath party won the second-highest number of seats in the House of Representatives in the March 24 general election. But a number of smaller parties and lawmakers pledged support to Prayuth for premiership.
"He (Prayuth) is patient and has sacrificed himself so much for the country," Koranis Ngamsukonrattana, a Palang Pracharath member of parliament, said during the Wednesday debate. "He's the savior who came when all hope was lost."
On Tuesday, the Democratic Party — Thailand's oldest party — agreed to join the Palang Pracharath-led coalition. In protest at the decision, former Democratic Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva resigned from parliament.
"We have seen abuse of state power… The (junta's) extension of power is not just rhetoric, it is reality," Abhisit said on Wednesday.
shs/rt (AFP, AP)