MFP win kindles hopes
The May 14 election results, with the Move Forward Party taking the lead, are a shock to the conservative wing as well as those who cling to the status quo.
The unofficial results showed the party winning 14.17 million votes on the party-list ballot, giving it 39 list MPs in addition to the 113 constituency seats it won, for a total of 152. Pheu Thai won 10.8 million list votes and will have a total of 141 MPs.
Coming third and fourth were the United Thai Nation Party under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and the Bhumjaithai Party under Anutin Charnvirakul, which grabbed 4.66 million and 1.11 million votes, respectively. Just over 75% of those eligible cast ballots on Sunday.
A victory that distinct gives MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat a mandate to form a coalition government.
Mr Pita said during the campaign that he was open to taking the alliance his party shared with Pheu Thai from opposition to government as their ideologies are similar.
The two agreed on Monday to enter an agreement with a handful of small parties to create a coalition that would have 310 seats in the 500-member House, providing a comfortable majority.
The huge poll victory epitomises, to a significant extent, a public eager for the kind of structural changes championed by the MFP, the reincarnation of the now dissolved Future Forward Party (FFP) whose leaders Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and Piyabutr Saengkanokkul were red-carded from politics for 10 years.
With bold flagship policies, like reform of the military and monarchy, the MFP has earned a reputation for being "too radical" for Thai politics, particularly its firm stance on Section 112 (the lese majeste law).
The party has been the only one to challenge this law. Where possible, it has also provided legal help to youth group members charged under the draconian law and paid the bail for their release prior to court dates. On several occasions, some elements tried to brand the MFP as an "anti-monarchy" party.
Quite a few politicians believed that such a strong stance could be an obstacle to the party achieving its goals. But the poll results prove otherwise.
The MFP, while critical of Section 112, seemed to settle on a prudent compromise by proposing that revising the law should be the duty of parliament.
The party's argument is that the contentious law is too broad and has too often been used by governments to stifle free speech and silence critics for political gains.
The term "insulting" under the law may be too ambiguous, with offences framed in terms of national security, which allows punishments to be overly severe.
There have been cases of young activists being forced into silence under threat of tough penalties, yet who were running legitimate campaigns for monarchy reform.
Worse, the judicial process often throws the accused into jail even before they are tried.
The country needs a more open atmosphere where changes to Section 112 can be discussed constructively.
A safe place for a discussion that includes related laws and would enable the high institution to continue to stand firm and proud in a changing world.
It is well known that this antediluvian law, especially the way it's been abused, has had the counterproductive effect of hurting the monarchy the most.
Without rectifying the situation, the country will face wider divisions and could plunge more deeply into crisis than ever before.
With public opinion clearly on its side, the time may finally be right for a party such as the MFP to turn the public's aspirations for change to the lese majeste law into structural change.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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