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Thailand: Pita says coalition taking shape after talks

May 18, 2023

Thai opposition leader Pita Limjaroenrat is confident he can rally enough support to form a government and become prime minister. The potentially unwieldy alliance he's proposing would unite eight different parties.

Move Forward Party leader and prime ministerial candidate Pita Limjaroenrat with coalition party leaders during the press conference in Bangkok
Move Forward party leader Pita Limaroenrat come into the talks with the most electoral supportImage: Vachira Vachira/NurPhoto/picture alliance

Thailand's Move Forward Party's leader expressed confidence that he would gain enough support to form a coalition government.

"My coalition is firmly taking shape. There is momentum. There is progress, and we also have a very clear roadmap from today until the day I become prime minister," Pita Limjaroenrat said at a news conference on Thursday.

Opposition parties in Thailand have secured a surprise victory in the general election held over the weekend, with Pita's Move Forward Party winning the largest share of the vote.

The proposed eight-party coalition would control 313 of the 500 lower house seats, giving them a majority but not enough to form a government.

A future prime minister would still need to be voted in as part of a bicameral vote under Thai law. That means Pita will need support either from the 250 unelected military-appointed senators, who have a record of siding with army-backed parties, or from the military-backed parties in the lower house to clear that hurdle.

"There is a committee and negotiation team in place to find out what I further need, the seats I need, so there is stability and no loss of balance in governing," Pita said.

Ideology clash could complicate Move Forward's plan

The main sticking point is the Move Forward party's plan to abolish the controversial lese-majeste law, which criminalizes insults to the powerful monarchy.

The law prescribes jail terms of up to 15 years for each perceived offense, with some given sentences of several decades.

The Bhumjaithai party, the third-place finisher with a projected 70 seats, indicated it would not back any prime minister who supports amending or abolishing the laws.

Asked about Bhumjaithai's declaration, Pita said: "That is their matter. The eight parties have a position and clarity."

According to Pita, his proposed coalition has received a mandate from the electorate to end almost 10 years of conservative, army-supported governance in the second-largest economy of Southeast Asia.

He said he planned to finalize negotiations with the other seven parties in the coming days.

lo/msh (AFP, Reuters)