Thais reject military, vote overwhelmingly for democracy parties

·2-min read
© Jack Taylor, AFP

Thai voters have delivered a clear rejection of nearly a decade of military-aligned rule, election results showed Monday, backing two pro-democracy opposition parties.

The Move Forward Party (MFP), the newest force in Thai politics that channelled the energy of youth-led pro-democracy protests in 2020, secured the most votes.

Led by charismatic 42-year-old Pita Limjaroenrat, the MFP wants to reform Thailand's strict royal insult laws, setting up a potential clash with the kingdom's powerful royalist-military elite.

Thais went to the polls in large numbers on Sunday after a campaign pitting a young generation yearning for change against the conservative elite embodied by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

"I feel like my country has (hope) for the future," Beam, 29, a personal assistant in Bangkok who coted for the MFP and took part in the 2020 protests, told AFP on Monday.

"People have really opened their eyes."

But in a kingdom where coups and court orders have often trumped the ballot box, she expressed the fears of many that the result may yet be thwarted.

With ballots counted from 99 percent of polling stations, Election Commission data showed MFP on 14 million in the popular vote followed by Pheu Thai on 10.6 million.

The United Thai Nation party, led by Prayut -- the ex-army chief who seized power in a 2014 coup -- was a distant third on 4.6 million.

Pita claimed an election victory on Monday, and said he would seek to build a six-party coalition including Pheu Thai.

"We can work together," she said.

This stacks the deck in the army's favour.

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