Thai junta looks for coalition partners amid fraud claims

Two rival Thai parties both say they are trying to form a coalition government in the wake of Thailand’s election, amid widespread allegations of voter fraud.

Early results give the pro-military Palang Pracharat Party a larger share of the popular vote – amid claims that it received more votes in some districts than registered voters. But the Thaksin Shinawatra-backed Pheu Thai party currently has the most parliamentary seats.

The Electoral Commission is facing strong criticism for its decision to delay publishing the full results without providing any explanation.

Since seizing power in the May 2014 coup, the generals have faced little opposition from the international community and will probably not worry unduly about allegations of electoral fraud.

The convoluted new electoral system allocates some lower house seats according to the number of votes received.

The commission initially said Pheu Thai, which is funded by self-exiled prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, had won 137 seats in the 500-strong lower house.

The junta’s democratic manifestation, the Palang Pracharat party, was in second place with 97 seats with other parties winning between 30 and 39 seats.

But 150 seats were still undeclared, the commission said. Official results may not be confirmed until May 9.

Concerns have been raised about the integrity of the election after 6 per cent of votes were disqualified.

A police officer turned telecoms tycoon turned populist, Thaksin, told the media the results were “rigged”.

“It’s right that we should call it a rigged election,” Thaksin said.

“Everyone know[s] in Thailand, everyone internationally that observed the election in Thailand, knows that there is irregularity.”

The Palang Pracharat party wants to install junta leader General Prayut Chan-ocha as a democratically elected prime minister, promising an end to political turmoil and infrastructural spending.

Uttama Savanayana, the Palang Pracharat leader, says the party is in talks with other parties about setting up a coalition.

Pheu Thai’s secretary general, Phumtham Wechayachai, said the party wanted to inspect the spoiled ballots.

Newly established Future Forward said it would demand the Election Commission make all the voting data public.

Human Rights Watch’s researcher Sunai Phasuk said it had received “very alarming” reports.

He said: “There were reports of vote buying, irregularities in vote count and tabulation, there were reports about intimidation of opposition parties members.”

Twitter hashtags translated as “Election Commission screw-up” and “cheating the election” have been trending.

Thailand can remove its ubiquitous election posters. Picture credit: Asean Economist