Opposition parties intent on preventing the military establishment from remaining in power in Thailand have formed a coalition with the hopes of forming a new government that could radically transform the kingdom if they are successful.
Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of Thailand’s Move Forward Party, which won the largest share of seats and the popular vote in Sunday’s election, said Thursday seven other parties had joined him in a coalition.
Pita, a 42-year-old Harvard alumni, called the coalition “the voice of hope and the voice of change” and said all parties had agreed to support him as the next prime minister of Thailand.
Together, they secure a majority 313 votes in the lower house, according to Pita, who said: “We definitely will be able to form a government.”
The eight parties include Move Forward, Pheu Thai, Thai Sang Thai, Prachachart, Seri Ruam Thai, Pheu Thai Ruam Palang, FAIR Party, and the Plung Sungkom Mai Party.
Party members in the new coalition will now develop a memorandum of understanding, which will be presented on May 22.
“We are here to find mutual agreement and keep aside the differences,” Pita said.
Unofficial results showed Move Forward won 151 seats in Sunday’s election with populist Pheu Thai in second place with 141 seats – both far ahead of the party of incumbent Prime Minister, and 2014 coup leader, Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Prayut’s United Thai Nation Party won just 36 seats in the election, while another military-backed party Palang Pracharat, led by former army chief Prawit Wongsuwan, received 40.
The result delivered a powerful rebuke of the military-backed establishment that has ruled for nearly a decade since the coup.
The progressive coalition now needs to win a majority of 376 seats in both houses of Thailand’s parliament to elect a prime minister and form a government.
It will take at least 60 days for that process to begin and there are still significant hurdles to overcome in a nation where the military have ensured they maintain a significant say in who can form a government.
Despite winning a landslide, a roadblock to the progressive camp’s win is the unelected 250-seat senate, which is chosen entirely by the military and has previously voted for a pro-military candidate.
Move Forward had gained a huge following among young Thais for its reformist platform, which included radical plans to amend the country’s strict lese majeste laws despite the taboo surrounding any discussion of the royal family in Thailand.
The party’s proposed structural changes to the military include getting rid of the draft, reducing the budget, making it more transparent and accountable, and reducing the number of generals.
On Tuesday, Pita told CNN he will work to “demilitarize, demonopolize and decentralize” Thailand.
“With the three-prong approach, that’s the only way that we can fully democratize Thailand and make sure that Thailand is back to business, Thailand is back in the global arena, and make sure that the country … is contributing but also benefiting by the definition of globalization,” he said.