STORY: To chants of “prime minister” – and even fan art – the leader of Thailand’s opposition Move Forward Party basked in a huge election win on Sunday.
Voters turned out in force behind two parties promising big changes and an end to a decade of conservative government led or backed by the military.
Move Forward’s leader Pita Limjaroenrat described the win as “sensational.”
“…who will be the manager of the coalition building is still waited to be seen, until the numbers are finalized."
His party came close to a clean sweep in Bangkok, riding a wave of support from young voters.
It, along with the Pheu Thai Party, surged ahead with more than 90 percent of the votes counted.
Despite what looked like clear results, forming government may be far less so.
Parliamentary rules are skewed in the military’s favor.
They wrote them after the 2014 coup.
So the next hurdle for the opposition parties will be to strike deals and win over members of a junta-appointed Senate who also get a say on who becomes prime minister and forms government.
The vote in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy marked the latest round in a long-running power battle between Pheu Thai, the juggernaut of the billionaire Shinawatra family against a nexus of old money, conservatives, and military with influence over key institutions involved in two decades of upheaval.
Pheu Thai has won five consecutive general elections since 2001 but either been forced out of power or disqualified each time.
But the stunning performance by Move Forward will likely test the resolve of the country’s establishment and ruling parties.
They’re also a crushing blow for the military and its allies.
The results appeared to set Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha up for a big defeat.
The retired general who led the last coup slipped quietly away from his party headquarters on Sunday.
He thanked the Thai people for voting while saying he respects democracy and the election.