MFP victory one for the history books
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MFP victory one for the history books

The phenomenal victory of the Move Forward Party (MFP) has stunned its political opponents.

The party, the reincarnation of the now-dissolved Future Forward Party (FFP), subdued not only the military-leaning parties like Palang Pracharat and United Thai Nation (UTN) but also ever-strong contestants like Pheu Thai.

In particular, Pheu Thai, which took the lead in all pre-election opinion surveys, came second with 141 seats, against 152 won by the MFP.

With regard to the party-list race, the MFP grabbed up to 14 million votes, much higher than the 10 million votes previously anticipated by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the former FFP leader.

In fact, it's safe to say that the MFP is the poll favourite in the list-MP race as it won in almost all the country's 77 provinces.

While some major parties were able to maintain their constituency MPs in their political bases, like the Bhumjaithai Party in Buri Ram or the UTN in Surat Thani, they still lost list-MP seats to the MFP.

The MFP's massive victory marks a turning point in Thai political history. It is a triumph of democratic forces over the military regime under Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha and Gen Prawit Wongsuwon, who ran the country since 2014.

It is also a defeat for the Thaksin parties, the all-time successful election winners since back in the Thai Rak Thai days in 2001.

The MFP, under the leadership of Pita Limjaroenrat, also besieged Chiang Mai, the so-called Pheu Thai stronghold city.

In Bangkok, the MFP swept 32 out of 33 constituencies, losing the Lat Krabang constituency to a Pheu Thai candidate by only four votes.

There are a few factors that enabled the MFP to pull off this historic poll success.

To begin, people are fed up with Gen Prayut and his military regime after such a lengthy stay and less than impressive performance.

Besides, the MFP is an option for those who want an escape from the polarisation of Thai politics, giving a big "no" to both the military and Thaksin parties.

In addition, last-ditch efforts by opponents to discredit the MFP, particularly the ITV shares allegations against Mr Pita, backfired and triggered a torrent of public sympathy for the MFP leader as voters wanted to give his opponents a slap in the face.

It must be said that the MFP's performance as an opposition party over the past four years has been highly impressive, making the party stand out.

The MFP has proven that it is an alternative to those in "old politics" who adhere to the "no action, talk only" style.

Also, the MFP's flagship election policies, aimed at fixing structural problems, demolishing monopolies by major businesses, downsizing the military, decentralisation and other reforms, sell well among people in various age groups.

With the party members in the age range of 30 to 45, each holding impressive track records, the MFP looks smart compared to those "old faces".

MFP members are truly social media savvy, making the most of several platforms, including TikTok and Line. In terms of resources, these platforms are more efficient in mass outreach initiatives and cost much less than traditional platforms.

Lastly, "Pita fever", given the MFP leader's pleasant personality, wit and leadership, helps push up the party's popularity.

While it was formerly believed that the MFP could entice only people in the young age bracket, its enormous election win proves this notion was the opposite of the truth.

The party also won confidence among the older generation, those in the middle class and those in urban and remote areas.

Several Pheu Thai and Democrat supporters switched their bases, and so did those in the pro- and anti-Thaksin camps who wanted political changes.

The MFP, a party of liberal ideology, gained a footing in the political arena, epitomising the change in Thai politics, while the military-backed parties, like the UTN and the PPRP, faded.

Yet, the fact that Pheu Thai -- a friend-turned-foe and vice versa -- made a comeback as the second-biggest winner, means a "sleeping with the enemy" situation has emerged, with the two rival parties being forced to maintain an alliance in a coalition.

Thaksin Shinawatra, meanwhile, has to accept the loss that resulted from his arrogance.

His "coming back home" discourse has no meaning any longer.

The fugitive knows his situation, so he and Pheu Thai agreed to step aside, pushing the MFP to the political frontline, biding his time.

As the MFP and seven parties can secure 313 House seats for a coalition government, they need 63 more votes to make Mr Pita become the 30th Thai prime minister.

They also agreed to set up working teams to rally for support from the Senate and other political parties and to sync policy platforms during the transition period from the caretaker government.

Now all eyes are on the 250-strong Senate over whether it will stand in the way, as its mandate in endorsing a premier remains valid in accordance with the military-sponsored 2017 charter.

However, several analysts are optimistic that some senators will respect the voters' choice and give the MFP the required support.

Besides, the MFP is not pushing for the amendment of the contentious Section 112 in its memorandum of understanding for a coalition government with its partners at this stage, so its PM nomination should be smooth.

The road ahead is rough, though, given that several flagship policies that enabled the MFP to win public trust -- like decentralisation, army reform and monopoly abolition -- will put the party at loggerheads with key institutions, the military and those clinging to the status quo.

It is a big challenge not only for the MFP and its coalition partners but also for the country in its transition.

Chairith Yonpiam

Assistant news editor

Chairith Yonpiam is assistant news editor, Bangkok Post.

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