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Painted Black Arrow

Crazy Elections

What is going on with Thailand's government?


Maybe you've heard rumblings that something is amiss in Thailand after their recent elections earlier this year, even though the people voted for a new prime minister on May 14, 2023.


It is complicated, so I'll give you a simplified and complex version. You can pick your poison. 


Simplified: Imagine your favorite sports teams were playing in the final championship game. One team was a clear winner, but no winner was announced after the game. Instead, all the refs and owners of different teams got together and decided neither team would win. The refs and select owners would have their own vote to determine who their winner would be. How would you feel if your team won and yet lost? 

A little background: There was a military coup in 2014. The military party established rule and brought on an interim prime minister. A new constitution was created under military control and passed in 2017. This new constitution did many things, but one of the main things it did was allow non-elected senators to have a say in confirming a newly elected prime minister. An election in 2019 established the interim military prime minister as the new leader of Thailand because of senate confirmation. In May of 2023, Thailand had an election in which Pita Limjaroenrat's party, the Move Forward Party, won a surprise victory. However, Pita ended up being rejected twice by conservative military-appointed senators. So, the interim military-appointed prime minister is staying in power for now. 


Slightly More Complicated:


Thai Government Structure and Prime Minister Election Process:

Thailand is a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system. This means that while they have a king or queen as a ceremonial figurehead, elected officials in a parliament carry out the actual governance.

  1. The Thai Parliament: Thailand's Parliament is bicameral, which means it has two houses. The lower House is called the House of Representatives, and the people directly elect its members. The upper House is the Senate, and it's somewhat complicated too. Its members were appointed at one time, but due to constitutional changes, it only sometimes works out this way.

  2. Prime Minister Election: The Prime Minister doesn't get elected directly by the people like in some countries. Instead, after a general election, the members of the House of Representatives nominate and vote on a candidate for Prime Minister. Typically, this candidate is from the party (or coalition of parties) with the most House seats.

  3. Leading Thai Government Parties: Thailand has several political parties, but the major ones recently have been the Phalang Pracharat Party (pro-military), Pheu Thai Party (linked historically with exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra), the recently disbanded Future Forward Party (a newer progressive party) and it's replacement, the Move Forward Party.

How It Works:

  1. Forming a Government: After the general elections, parties will try to form coalitions if no single party has a clear majority in the House of Representatives. The party or coalition with a majority will nominate their candidate for Prime Minister. 

  2. Vote in the House: The House of Representatives will vote on the Prime Minister candidate. Once a candidate secures the required votes, they become the Prime Minister.

  3. Cabinet: The Prime Minister will then form a cabinet, which is essentially a team of ministers responsible for various government departments.

  4. Governance: Once the Prime Minister and the cabinet are in place, they'll start governing based on their party's or coalition's policies and manifesto.

What Happened:


  1. The Winner: Pita Limjaroenrat's party, the Move Forward Party, won a surprise victory by receiving the most votes from the Thai people who voted in the recent elections. 

  2. The Loser: Even though Pita received the most votes and formed a coalition of parties with a majority in the House of Representatives, he was denied the Prime Minister's post. Why? Because in a combined vote of both the House and the Senate, many conservative military-appointed senators voted against him. He was able to be nominated a second time, but that was also denied.

  3. Public Reaction: Many of Pita's supporters were frustrated. They saw this as disrespecting the people's will, especially since Pita's party had won the election. There were protests and public gatherings to show their disappointment.

  4. History and Politics: Thailand's political system has been designed to prevent challenges to the existing power structures. The 2017 Constitution, created under military rule, was mainly aimed at reducing the influence of a former prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, but it can also be used against others. This constitution allows non-elected senators to have a say in confirming prime ministers, which is part of why Pita faced challenges.

So what happens next?

Good question. The simple answer is it is unclear at this time. 


Some possibilities that I have heard through the grapevine...


  • Some think there might be another military coup (where the military takes control by force).

  • If the vote for the Prime Minister takes too long, the current leader, Prayut, can put his trusted people in key military positions.

  • If certain people get too powerful, the military might step in to keep control. However, many other options are available for them to stay in power without a coup.

  • Prayut is acting as a temporary leader until a new one is decided. He will be influential in putting into power who he wants in power. 

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