On March 24, Thai citizens went to the polls for the first time since the 2014 coup, in which General – now Prime Minister – Prayut Chan-o-cha came to power. The election for the House of Representatives had originally been promised for the end of 2015, but it was delayed until this month amid criticism from the opposition and civil society. The 2019 general election was also the first to take place in accordance with the 2017 constitution, which changed the voting system. Additionally, pre-election intrigue like Princess Ubolratana's ultimately unsuccessful bid to run drew international attention to this highly-anticipated election.
Seventy-seven parties ran and 66 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots. The election was widely regarded as a two-way contest between the bloc that supports the pro-junta Palang Pracharath Party and the alliance around the Pheu Thai Party. Anticlimactically, the outcome of this election is still unknown, for two main reasons.
First, the Election Commission announced the unofficial results from 350 constituencies, but withheld the result of the remaining 150 seats, citing counting problems. Based on this result, the Pheu Thai Party announced a seven-party coalition with at least 255 seats. The body announced on March 28 that Palang Pracharath won the popular vote with 8.4 million votes, but still did not reveal the allocation of the 150 seats, which is due May 9.
Second, under the amended 2017 constitution, the junta can pick most of the 250 senators who vote with 500 members of the House of Representatives to elect the prime minister. Technically, Palang Pracharath only needs 126 representatives to support General Prayut's election. At the moment, both blocs are claiming victory.
Experts believe that regardless of the election result, political instability will likely remain in Thailand due to a continued tug-of-war between the junta and the civil society-backed opposition. Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, now in exile, voiced his concerns over the election through an op-ed in the New York Times, claiming that the junta was "ready to destroy the system" and had "rigged" the election, echoing the opposition rallying around the Pheu Thai Party.