Thailand’s general elections just saw citizens vote overwhelmingly in favour of Move Forward, the young, progressive, anti-military opposition party. Move Forward gained immense popularity among Thailand’s youth, and now they’ve won the elections by a landslide, losing out on just one seat in Bangkok.
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Move Forward is led by 42-year-old Harvard graduate Pita Limjaroenrat. They will form a coalition government with Pheu Thai, the second-largest party, and four other opposition parties, which would guarantee them 60% of the parliament’s seats.
Despite sweeping up the popular vote, a difficult road lies ahead for Move Forward. For almost a decade, military-backed governments have been leading Thailand under ex-army chief and former Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. He came to power first in 2014 after a military coup. The military appointed a 250-member Senate, among whom Limjaroenrat will have to gain a majority vote in order to become Prime Minister and form the new government. Thus, a major chunk of political power is still in the hands of the military, rather than the party elected by the people.
It is precisely this influence that Move Forward opposes, which puts them in a precarious position when it comes to earning the favour of the Senate. The party is also against the lese majeste or royal insult law that metes out a sentence of 15 years to those who defame the Thai monarchy. The law has received criticism for suppressing dissent and silencing critics of the monarchy and the government.
Thai people, however, seem to be ready for a change. It sent out a clear message that they no longer want the conservative, military-backed government in power. Importantly, it also implies they’re looking towards a youth-led party to become that change. Political analysts are hailing this a major shift in Thai public opinion, and the beginning of a new era for the country’s political landscape. Young Thai people are at the front and centre of this change. They have been protesting against Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government and the monarchy and faced strict action including arrests and the use of force by police in response from the government.
The coming weeks will be crucial in understanding whether the youth-led party that has secured the nation’s trust will have a chance to actually lead it. Still, it is an impressive win for Move Forward and is a testament to what Thai people, especially the youth, want for the future — a young party calling for radical changes to the country’s political and economic state.