As election campaigning entered its final lap this week, the Bangkok Post asked academics to predict the number of lower House seats each party is expected to win on Sunday, as well as the most likely post-election coalitions, and who will become the new prime minister.
Cryptic crowd-pleaser: In the lead up to Sunday’s general election, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a United Thai Nation Party prime ministerial candidate, on Wednesday returns to Chumphon, one of the party’s political strongholds in the South, to meet his supporters while Srettha Thavisin, a prime ministerial candidate for Pheu Thai, was in Chiang Mai, one of his party’s bases in the North. Mr Srettha took selfies with supporters at Tha Phae Gate in Muang district. (Photos courtesy of United Thai Nation Party & Pheu Thai Party)
Attention is focused on major parties, including Pheu Thai, the Move Forward Party (MFP), United Thai Nation (UTN) Party, Democrat Party, Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) and Bhumjaithai Party, while small parties are also being factored in.
Olarn Thinbangtieo, a political science lecturer at Burapha University, said Pheu Thai may not hit its goal of securing at least 250 House seats partly because it did not fare well in the last leg of the campaign.
He predicted Pheu Thai would instead capture 200 House seats -- 160 seats in the constituency contest, mostly in the Northeast and the North, as well as another 35-40 in the party-list system.
Olarn: MFP popular among young
As for the MFP, Mr Olarn said it would ride its rising popularity and secure up to 100 House seats -- 40 party-list seats and 60 constituency seats in Bangkok and some major provinces with large groups of middle-class people and businesses.
The MFP is popular among young voters, Mr Olarn said, adding some voters may support constituency candidates from other parties, but when it comes to selecting a party, they may favour the MFP instead.
Sunday's election will revert to the dual-ballot method in which one ballot is used to select a constituency MP and the other to select a party to lead the government.
"This will help the MFP win a high number of party-list seats," he said. As for the UTN, Mr Olarn said the party relies on Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha's popularity and is expected to win five party-list seats and about 20 seats in the constituency contest, mostly in the upper South where Gen Prayut's popularity is high.
Some candidates who defected from the Democrat Party as well as those who hold support bases in the Central Region and the East, such as Sing Buri, Ang Thong and Chon Buri, are also crucial to the party's success, Mr Olarn said.
As for the Democrat Party, he said the country's oldest political party is expected to win no more than 30 House seats -- five party-list seats and the rest from the constituency contest -- mostly in the upper South and some eastern provinces such as Rayong.
He also predicted the PPRP would capture about five party-list seats and 20 constituency seats in provinces which are the support bases of the party's key figures, such as Phrae, the stronghold of Capt Thamanat Prompow.
Bhumjaithai would win no more than 70 seats -- 10 in the party-list system and the rest in the constituency contest, Mr Olarn said.
The party has its support bases in the lower Northeast, as well as the Central Region, some eastern provinces such as Prachin Buri, and southern provinces on the Andaman coast, he said.
He forecast that about 50 House seats would be distributed among small and medium-sized parties such as the Chartthaipattana Party, which is expected to win 3-4 seats, while the Chartpattanakla Party is also tipped to capture 3-4 seats.
Commenting on the post-election formation of a government, Mr Olarn said there are two possible coalitions.
The first would see a coalition comprising parties in the current opposition bloc, including Pheu Thai, the MFP and Seri Ruam Thai.
Other parties such as Chartthaipattana, Chartpattanakla, Puea Chat, Prachachat and Thai Sang Thai may also be included.
"But it remains to be seen whether they can have a combined 375 seats. If they can, one of Pheu Thai's prime ministerial candidates -- Paetongtarn Shinawatra or Srettha Thavisin -- will become the new prime minister.
"But if they cannot, the Senate's support may be required, and it remains to be seen whether the MFP would be ready to agree with this," Mr Olarn said.
He also noted that Mr Srettha and Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew had made it clear Pheu Thai would not work with the PPRP and the UTN, and spoke out against the Senate's role in co-electing a prime minister.
"But if Pheu Thai has to enter into an alliance with its rivals such as the UTN and the PPRP, Mr Srettha and Dr Cholnan may have to make sacrifices by resigning from Pheu Thai temporarily to allow such a move, which would see the MFP end up in the opposition bloc again," Mr Olarn said.
A minority government, led by either Gen Prayut or Deputy Prime Minister and PPRP leader Prawit Wongsuwon, could also be formed to break the deadlock if a coalition led by Pheu Thai wins a majority of House seats but cannot proceed to establish a government due to lack of support from the Senate, Mr Olarn said.
Wanwichit Boonprong, a political science lecturer at Rangsit University, said Pheu Thai is expected to win most seats in the election, though it may not achieve the landslide victory it had hoped for.
He predicted the party would secure at least 200 seats -- 180 constituency seats, mostly in the Northeast, the party's stronghold, as well as another 20-30 party-list seats.
Wanwichit: Pheu Thai to win most
As for the MFP, it is expected to capture about 60 House seats -- about 25 constituency seats and 30 seats in the party-list system.
The MFP's support base is made up of new voters as well as some liberal-minded middle-class people who criticised Pheu Thai over its unclear stance regarding a post-election government coalition.
Mr Wanwichit also predicted Bhumjaithai would win at least 60 seats in the constituency contest, particularly in Buri Ram, Surin and Si Sa Ket, though it may secure no more than 10 party-list easts.
"Bhumjaithai has been the target of attack from coalition partners over its cannabis liberalisation policy," Mr Wanwichit said.
He added that the Democrat Party is expected to win about 25 constituency seats, mostly in the South, as well as 15 party-list seats.
The UTN is tipped to secure some 28 constituency seats, mostly in the South as well as perhaps 10 party-list seats, Mr Wanwichit said, adding it may secure no more than three constituency seats in Bangkok.
Even though Gen Prayut's popularity among voters in the South is high, most southern voters still favour the Democrats over the UTN, Mr Wanwichit said.
"Gen Prayut visited Hat Yai in Songkhla several times after the New Year because there are numerous swing voters in the South," he said.
He said the PPRP would win about 20 constituency seats, mostly in the strongholds of major clans of local politicians, such as in Phayao, Samut Prakan and Sing Buri, as well as about 6-10 party-list seats.
Chartthaipattana is also expected to win no more than 10 House seats, while Prachachat is tipped to secure 6-8 seats in the three southern border provinces.
Chartpattanakla may win a few constituency seats in Nakhon Ratchasima and a few party-list seats, Mr Wanwichit said, adding that Seri Ruam Thai may win only a small number of seats.
"With the dual-ballot system, small parties are unlikely to win many seats. The system will lead to a strategic vote as people will vote for their preferred parties to become government instead of small parties," he said.
Asked about possible government coalitions, he said the first scenario involves Pheu Thai allying itself with parties in the current opposition bloc, including the MFP, as well as some parties from the current government coalition, such as Chartthaipattana, to achieve a combined number of more than 300 MPs.
Mr Wanwichit said the next step is for the coalition to pressure the Senate to support the prime ministerial candidate they nominate.
In this scenario, Mr Srettha, a Pheu Thai prime ministerial candidate, is expected to be nominated for a vote, Mr Wanwichit said.
Another scenario involves Pheu Thai working with the PPRP and Bhumjaithai and sidelining the MFP. Mr Srettha would still be nominated for prime minister, he guessed.
Pheu Thai could also join hands with the PPRP, Bhumjaithai and Chartthaipattana and nominate Gen Prawit for prime minister, he said.
A minority government is also possible with Gen Prayut as prime minister, though it may face resistance from the public, triggering political chaos, Mr Wanwichit said.
Stithorn Thananithichot, director of the Office of Innovation for Democracy at the King Prajadhipok's Institute, said Pheu Thai is expected to win about 220 House seats -- 190 constituency seats and 30 party-list seats.
The number is lower than an earlier estimate due in part to the MFP's rising popularity, he said.
Stithorn: Prayut could step in
He said the MFP is expected to secure 30 constituency seats and another 30 party-list seats as in the 2019 election, while the UTN is tipped to capture 25-30 House seats, and the Democrat Party would secure about 50 seats, mostly in the South.
The PPRP would win 45-50 seats whereas Bhumjaithai would secure 70, Mr Stithorn said, adding that Prachachat is expected to win 10-12 while Chartthaipattana is tipped to win 10.
Thai Sang Thai would secure 5-7 while Chartpattanakla would capture 2-3 seats and Seri Ruam Thai would win 2-3 party-list seats, Mr Stithorn predicted.
As for the post-election government coalition, he said that a possible coalition made up of Pheu Thai, the MFP, Prachachat, and Seri Ruam Thai should have a combined 300 MPs.
But if they want to nominate a prime ministerial candidate without the support of the Senate, they need to gather the combined number of 375 MPs, he said.
This may see Bhumjaithai brought into the coalition to achieve the goal, though Bhumjaithai may be reluctant to join as it does not want to work with the MFP, Mr Stithorn said.
"As a result, Pheu Thai will face a dilemma and this may prompt Pheu Thai to dump the MFP and opt for the PPRP instead," he said.
In this scenario, Mr Srettha would be nominated for a parliament vote to become prime minister, though he may also be forced to step aside to make way for Ms Paetongtarn, considering his remarks against the PPRP and Bhumjaithai.
"But if those parties cannot negotiate any agreement, Gen Prayut may eventually step in and snatch the post of prime minister from them," Mr Stithorn said.
He said the next government must measure up to people's expectations otherwise it will be punished by voters in future elections.
Thanaporn Sriyakul, director of the Institute of Politics and Policy Analysis, predicted Pheu Thai would secure 210 House seats while the MFP would win 90-100.
The UTN is expected to win 30 seats, while the PPRP is tipped to win 40. The Democrat Party would secure 40, and Bhumjaithai is expected to win 60, he predicted.
Thanaporn: Prawit has senate clout
Other parties, such as Thai Sang Thai, Chartthaipattana and Chartpattanakla, may only secure up to 10 seats each.
Mr Thanaporn also predicted a possible coalition comprising the UTN, PPRP, the Democrats and Bhumjaithai.
They need to have at least a combined 126 MPs with the support of the Senate to establish a government, and they could later bring in other parties to reinforce the coalition, he said.
He added that Pheu Thai may also join hands with the MFP to have a combined 310 MPs to prevent the Senate from co-electing a prime minister and support Ms Paetongtarn to become the prime minister.
"But Pheu Thai and the PPRP remain key players as Gen Prawit still wields considerable clout over the Senate.
'The two parties may form a coalition first and then bring in other parties such as Bhumjaithai.
"In this scenario, Gen Prawit may become prime minister first, and when the five-year tenure of the Senate ends next year, Ms Paetongtarn may take over the premiership," Mr Thanaporn said.
He added that an election always provides a way out of conflict as it brings positive changes to the political landscape.
"If elections are held regularly, this will provide the country with immunity from coups," he said.
Phichai Ratnatilaka Na Bhuket
Phichai Ratnatilaka Na Bhuket, programme director for politics and development strategy at the National Institute of Development Administration, said Pheu Thai is expected to come out on top with most House seats, followed by the MFP, paving the way for them to set up a government coalition.
Pheu Thai is expected to win about 220 House seats -- 181 constituency seats, mostly in the Northeast, and about 39 party-list seats, though the party is unlikely to win even a single seat in the South, he said.
Phichai: New PM likely from Pheu Thai
The MFP is tipped to secure 140-150 House seats while Bhumjaithai would pocket 30-35 seats and the UTN is expected to capture 25-31, Mr Phichai said, adding the Democrats would secure 30-35 and the PPRP is expected to win 20-24.
Nine seats are also predicted for Prachachat, 10 for Chartthaipattana, one for Chartpattanakla and 4-6 for Thai Sang Thai, he said.
"The predictions are based on the analysis of results of opinion surveys, debates, campaign speeches and social media trends, coupled with theories on voters' behaviour," Mr Phichai said.
Asked for thoughts on possible coalitions after this election, he said that one scenario involves a coalition made up of Pheu Thai, the MFP, and parties in the current opposition bloc, such as Prachachat and Seri Ruam Thai, with at least a combined 375 MPs.
Another scenario is that Pheu Thai may exclude the MFP from the coalition to avoid any potential problems that may arise from working with the party and would instead work with Bhumajaithai and the Democrats as well as the PPRP, led by Gen Prawit, to seek the Senate's support.
"Either way, the new prime minister will still come from Pheu Thai. But who between Ms Paetongtarn and Mr Srettha will become prime minister remains to be seen," Mr Phichai said.
Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee
Siripan Nogsuan Sawasdee, a political science lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, said a recent survey on voters' behaviour suggested Pheu Thai would secure 37 party-list seats, followed by the MFP (30), the UTN (12), the Democrats (8), the PPRP (4) and Bhumjaithai (4), and one each for Seri Ruam Thai, Chartthaipattana and Chartpattanakla.
The survey questioned 2,500 people of various ages, incomes and educational backgrounds.
Siripan: Opinion Olarn: MFP popular surveys unreliable
According to the survey, 38.32% of respondents said they would vote for Pheu Thai's constituency candidates, while 33.96% supported those from the MFP.
Some 12.08% supported the UTN's candidates, while 4.28% favoured those from the Democrat Party, and 2.92% backed Bhumjaithai's candidates. Only 1.56% said they preferred the PPRP's candidates.
However, Ms Siripan admitted the results of several recent opinion surveys are not reliable indicators.
In previous elections, poll results were disproved after the election results were announced. "A sample of 2,000-3,000 people polled in a survey is very small, compared to the more than 50 million eligible voters," she said.
She said the party with the most seats must lead the formation of the next government.
Ms Siripan said a recent study showed most people want the Senate to support a PM candidate from the party with the most seats.