Ball now in Senate's court
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Ball now in Senate's court

On Sunday, millions of Thais went to cast their votes to make sure their voices were heard loud and clear -- that this time around, they want political change, and they want it now.

In the election, which marked a watershed moment for Thai democracy, over 14 million people voted for the Move Forward Party -- a newcomer on the political scene with a radical and progressive agenda that includes military reforms and amendments to Section 112 of the Criminal Code, also known as the lese majeste law. Worth noting is the fact that the MFP received over twice as many votes as its predecessor, the Future Forward Party, had received in the previous election.

The MFP's performance in the election rattled political pundits and pollsters alike, many of whom had predicted that Pheu Thai would secure a landslide victory in the election. Instead, for the first time, the Shinawatra clan-affiliated party came second in the polls.

The United Thai Nation (UTN) and Palang Pracharath (PPRP) parties, meanwhile, unsurprisingly received significantly fewer votes than the MFP and Pheu Thai. Their losses show the beauty of a democratic system -- the armed forces can stage a coup every now and then with the guns at their disposal, but ordinary citizens will ultimately send them back to the barracks with mere papers and pens.

Sunday's vote outcome should serve as a reminder for the Thai military that tanks can help a soldier win a battle on the frontline, but not in a democratic game.

The overwhelming support for the MFP and Pheu Thai has effectively closed the door for "minnows" to rally together to form a minority government. As such, it was refreshing to see leaders of smaller parties, like UTN's Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, publicly accept defeat and proclaim his readiness to serve from the opposition benches.

This is what voters want to see -- elected politicians showing their grasp of political etiquette and sense of fair play when faced with a loss instead of resorting to last-minute negotiations and backstabbing to protect their political interests.

In Thailand, winning an election is one thing, but forming a government after the polls is another matter altogether.

Under the current constitution, a prime minister candidate must have the support of at least 376 lawmakers to assume the position -- as there are 500 MPs in the House and 250 senators in the Upper House, who were appointed by the 2014 coup makers.

Just one day after the polls closed, however, trouble seems to be brewing. MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat has announced the party will form a coalition government with Pheu Thai and three other small parties, bringing the number of MPs under their wing to 309.

That formula is different from the one proposed by Pheu Thai, which sought to include the Bhumjaithai Party and its 67 MPs in the new coalition. This means the MFP-led government will need to secure 67 more votes from senators to have its way in parliament.

It is worrying that some members of the Senate have indicated they might not join the voting for prime minister. Such a move will lead to another political deadlock and open the door for backroom deals in the formation of the new government. It is hoped that all senators will respect the wishes of the majority and take part in the premier selection process in a constructive manner.

Failing to do so will lead to the Senate being remembered as the destabiliser of the democratic institution it is supposed to promote.


Bangkok Post editorial column

These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.

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