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Thailand awaits election results as Prayut poised to retain power

By PRIME SARMIENTO | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-03-26 09:32

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha gives a speech during the Palang Pracharath Party's party campaign rally in central Bangkok, Thailand, March 22, 2019. [Photo/Agencies]

Thailand's general election turns out divided results among main parties with incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha likely to retain his post, though the opposition also claims possibility of forming a coalition government.

However, the main opposition Pheu Thai Party has so far won 138 of the 350 constituency seats on offer at the House of Representatives in the tally announced by the Election Commission of Thailand late on Monday.

The Palang Pracharath Party to which Prayut belongs came in second with 96 seats, trailed by Bhumjaithai with 39. The Democrats only won 33 seats, while Future Forward snared 30.

The rest of the seats were shared between Chartthaipattana with 7 seats, Prachachart with 6, and Action Coalition for Thailand, 1.

The Election Commission is yet to announce the official results of Sunday's general election.

But unofficial tally, which is based on the 94 percent of votes counted, showed the Palang Pracharath Party winning 7.7 million votes. Coming in a strong second is the Pheu Thai Party, a political party allied with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, which so far garnered 7.2 million votes.

However, according to Thailand's newly amended constitution, it is the number of constituency seats held by each party, not the total number of votes, that will determine who will dominate the 500-seat House of Representatives. The remaining 150 seats in the Lower House will be allocated based on a party-list formula.

Punchada Sirivunnabood, an associate professor of political science at Mahidol University, told China Daily that Palang Pracharath Party's success in getting popular vote will lend legitimacy to the military-led government.

Thai baht rises

Titipol Phakdeewanich, dean of the Faculty of Political Science at the Ubon Rachathani University, expects Palang Pracharath Party to link with other parties, form a coalition government and secure political power.

Both the Palang Pracharath Party and Pheu Thai Party have said that they're willing to link up with other parties to form a coalition government.

Analysts expect Prayut to eventually win as prime minister, gaining votes not only from the Lower House but also from all the 250 appointed Senate members.

Financial markets welcomed the results of the elections, with the Thai baht opening Monday's trade at a stronger rate against the US dollar, according to a Bloomberg report. And while a global selloff has weighed down all Asian equities, the Stock Exchange of Thailand's losses were not as much as its regional peers.

A Hong Kong-based economist attributed this to investors' sanguine view on the outcome of the Thai elections.

"They expect the Thai government to continue with the same economic policy of domestic-led economic growth," the analyst said, adding that this will continue to support the Thai currency.

The United Kingdom-based forecasting firm Oxford Economics said political continuity supports the asset markets and economic growth.

"Stability will lend itself to better growth prospects with pro-domestic demand election promises likely to be rolled out soon after the government takes office," Oxford Economics said in its report released on Monday.

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