See More on Facebook

Analysis, Politics

Recapping Thailand’s crazy election

Pro-military party exceeds expectation as Democrats struggle.


Written by

Updated: March 24, 2019

Thailand’s election is almost over with 90 percent reporting and surprises abound as the pro-military Palang Pracharat party has proven a stronger adversary than expected for the Thaksin-backed Pheu Thai party.

We take a look at several storylines that should be recapped as the country struggles to make sense of Sunday’s election.

Thailand’s oldest political party must reorganize, reinvent

Long billing themselves as the historical saviors of Thai democracy, the Democrat Party of Thailand have become the unwanted, middle-of-the-road party that stands for nothing and is appealing to none.

The party will need to take a long hard look at itself after coming behind several other parties including the upstart Future Forward Party. Before placing blame on others, or Thaksin (as they tend to do for basically everything), the Democrat might want to look at its track record over the past two decades to figure out what went wrong.

They can start by looking at how they came into power in 2008 despite not winning the majority of seats and how they were able to form a government after the constitutional courts disbanded and red-carded their rivals. A legitimate party would have probably called for elections, the Democrats hung on for another three years.

We can also look into the crackdown in 2010, when refusing to resign, Abhisit Vejjajiva ordered a military crackdown on protesters (some of whom were armed, many of whom were not) in the middle of Bangkok leading to the death of over 90 people.

We can talk about how Abhisit has had over 15 years to reorganize his party, to get rid of the old guard of the party, to instill new blood or at least a platform that wasn’t a complete rip-off of Thaksin’s economic policies. He achieved none of that.

We can talk about the senior party leadership and how they supported the PDRC protests of 2014 that ushered in the military coup, how Abhisit and Chuan Leekpai stood on a stage in downtown Bangkok alongside people that were calling for a military takeover.

Now with the military fully in charge and with a political party of their own, why would anyone vote for the Democrats? They didn’t and now Abhisit has resigned and the Democrat’s Faustian bargain ended the way we expected, not with a bang but a whimper.

Perhaps the silver lining now is that the party has no excuses not to reinvent and reorganize itself. A lot of younger Democrats are still loyal to the party and if they can secure it for themselves, perhaps the party will be a force once again in the not too distant future.

Pheu Thai needs a Thaksin solution

What is clear from talking to people on the ground and the millions of vox-pops from around the country leading up to the elections is that more people voted against Pheu Thai than voted for Palang Pracharat.

There is definitely a catch-22 to the Thaksin conundrum that the party faces. On one hand their base of support absolutely adores him still and will vote for that brand continuously. But that base is shrinking, and more and more people are finding his continued interference in Thai politics unpalatable.

So how does the party move on? It will need to reorganize and reinvent as well but to a lesser degree than the Democrats. Many people like Chadchart Sittipunt, the deputy party leader and prime minister nominee, who is seen as a voice of reason within the party as opposed to Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan who is perceived as a Thaksin ally and part of the old guard.

What is clear is that the Thaksin question needs to be solved before the next election if Pheu Thai is to enjoy the dominance that it once had.

Future Forward offers a new way

There was much ado about Thailand’s first-time voters and under-30s voters leading into the election and boy have they spoken. Thanathorn Jungrungreangkit’s Future Forward Party surpassed all expectations and will take a significant number of seats in the next parliament.

For a party contesting its first election, the results are incredible, and Thailand can count a true progressive party in its ranks for the first time. Rather than the tried and tested method of running and buying local political families to run, Future Forward ran based solely on issues and won in the face of cronyism.

That Future Forward took seats in Bangkok from the Democrats and were the second or third most popular party in most contest means that younger Thais are finally embracing a third way beyond the conservative vs Thaksin divide.

The Uncle Tuu Brand is strong

What should be recognized in Palang Pracharat’s victory is the strength of the Prayuth Chan-ocha brand. Yes he seized power illegally in 2014, yes he help lead a crackdown against protesters in 2010, yes his government has been repressive and have used legal and extra-legal measures to ensure its continued rule but to a sector of the Thai population he is as popular as well.

The plain-speaking general and his avuncular mannerisms is a central part of why Palang Pracharat won as many seats as they did and this should not be discounted now or in the future. Prayuth Chan-ocha has a strong political brand.



Enjoyed this story? Share it.


Cod Satrusayang
About the Author: Cod Satrusayang is the Managing Editor at Asia News Network.

Eastern Briefings

All you need to know about Asia


Our Eastern Briefings Newsletter presents curated stories from 22 Asian newspapers from South, Southeast and Northeast Asia.

Sign up and stay updated with the latest news.



By providing us with your email address, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

View Today's Newsletter Here

Analysis, Politics

Challenges loom for Asia’s digital landscape

An overview of digital strategies across Asia in light of the first ever annual Digital Economy Report released by UNCTAD last week. Last week, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) released its first ever annual Digital Economy Report (2019). It came at a time when countries across Asia have been grappling with a complex digital future. Digital technologies help cut costs, enable delivery of services without leakages, reduce opportunities for graft, promote ease of doing business, leverage an increasingly non-tactile world, grow economies, have the potential to create millions of new jobs and, it appears, even help fight fake news. On the flip side, there are concerns of the cost of the emerging digital economy in terms of loss of traditional employment sectors, eroding the right to privacy, abetting authoritarian state-control of citizens’ lives, causing a s


By Ishan Joshi
September 19, 2019

Analysis, Politics

Rohingyas in Voter List: EC staffers, fraud ring behind it

Electoral fraud sees Rohingya on voting list. A nexus of brokers and some dishonest staffers of the Election Commission’s Chattogram office provides forged national identity cards to Rohingyas, an EC investigation team has found. Three members of the syndicate were arrested on Monday. An EC laptop, used in the forgery, was recovered from their possession, EC Deputy Director (NID) Iqbal Hossain, head of the three-member team, told The Daily Star yesterday. The arrestees are Jainal Abedin, 35, office assistant of Double Mooring Election Office under the Chattogram EC office, Bijoy Das, 23, a driver, and his sister Sima Das alias Sumaiya Jahan, 26, said Mohammad Mohsin, officer-in-charge of Kotwali Police Station. Yesterday, Double Mooring Thana Election Officer Pallabi Chakma filed a case against five people, including the three, with the police station under the Digital Security Act, the OC said


By Daily Star
September 18, 2019

Analysis, Politics

President blames China for ‘suppressing Taiwan int’l space’

The Solomon Islands is the latest country to not recognise Taiwan. President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) strongly condemned Solomon Islands’ decision to establish diplomatic relations with China in a major statement released on Monday. The president blamed China for using “financial and political pressure to suppress Taiwan’s international space” and called Beijing’s action “a threat,” but also a “brazen challenge and detriment to the international order.” Taiwan’s attitude towards its diplomatic allies has been one of sincere friendship, she said, stressing that Taiwan spares “no effort” and treats allies with “sincerity.” In the face of China’s alleged interference, however, she added that “we will not stand to be threatened, nor will we be subjected to ceaseless demands.” The president also stressed that Taiwan will not engage in “dollar diplomacy” with China


By ANN Members
September 17, 2019

Analysis, Politics

Hong Kong police deploy water cannon, tear gas to disperse radical protesters

More protests erupted this week, the third month of continuous weekend protest. Hong Kong police fired water cannons and volleys of tear gas to break up protesters throwing petrol bombs and bricks near the Legislative Council (LegCo) building and central government offices on Sunday (Sept 15), the latest in weeks of sometimes-violent unrest. One water-cannon truck parked behind water-filled barriers surrounding the government headquarters complex caught fire after being hit by a petrol bomb, but the flames were quickly put out by police. After repeated warnings failed to disperse the protesters, police fired water cannons laced with blue dye as well as volleys of tear gas to break up the demonstrators. In other countries, dye is added to the water to help identify protesters later. Meanwhile, the LegCo Secretariat issued a red alert informing all persons to evacuate the LegCo Complex immediately.


By The Straits Times
September 16, 2019

Analysis, Politics

Iran rejects US claim it was behind Saudi oil strikes, says ready for war

All sides in the Middle East have stepped up their rhetoric in recent days. Iran dismissed accusations by the United States that it was behind attacks on Saudi oil plants that risk disrupting global energy supplies and warned on Sunday that US bases and aircraft carriers in the region were in range of its missiles. Yemen’s Houthi group claimed responsibility for Saturday’s attacks that knocked out more than half of Saudi oil output or more than 5 per cent of global supply, but US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the assault was the work of Iran, a Houthi ally. The drone strikes on plants in the heartland of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry, including the world’s biggest petroleum processing facility, were expected to send oil prices up $5-10 per barrel on Monday as tensions rise in the Middle East. Iran’s President Hass


By Dawn
September 16, 2019

Analysis, Politics

South Korea and Japan have more in common than they think

Republished with permission for Asia News Network members by The Brookings Institution. With South Korea’s decision to scrap the 2016 military intelligence sharing agreement with Japan, the two sides have dramatically aggravated their fraught relationship. Bilateral ties had never been great, but in the past several weeks, a trade spat has snowballed into a confrontation that apparently has yet to reach rock bottom. Last month, Tokyo decided to remove South Korea from its list of favored trading partners, which includes the United States, Germany, France, and two dozen other countries, placing export curbs on industrial and high-tech p


By Asia News Network
September 16, 2019