Thailand‘s Election Commission has announced the long-delayed results of the March 24 general election, which gave no party with an absolute majority but indicated that the army-backed party needs only a small number of allies to get enough votes to allow coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha to cling to power.
The results, which were released late on Wednesday, were immediately challenged by the rivals of the country’s military government.
They showed the military-government-linked Palang Pracharat party having 115 seats in the lower house, only 11 votes shy of a majority in the combined parliament, thanks to 250 military-appointed senators.
The results were announced more than a month after the vote, the first election since the military seized power in a 2014 coup.
It was held under new rules crafted by the generals, including the creation of appointed senators who can vote for prime minister.
Palang Pracharat party leader Uttama Savanayana said on Facebook after the results that it is “ready to work and move forward with our policies we promised to the people”.
Despite the booked-in advantage, the lower house results leave the party needing a little help from coalition partners.
The most obvious candidates are Bhumjaitai and the Democrat Party, both of which have more than 50 lower house seats. Officials from both the parties said on Wednesday they have yet to reach a decision.
“The party is split,” longtime Democrat official Sirichok Sopha told AFP news agency.
The election was widely seen as a choice between military government-backed rule and those aligned with billionaire ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
A whopping 27 parties will have seats when parliament convenes within 15 days. Wednesday’s results are likely to set off horsetrading, negotiations and challenges.
The Thaksin-linked Pheu Thai party won the most lower house seats with 136 posing a legitimacy crisis for Prayuth should he become prime minister.
Pheu Thai threatened to take legal action over the formula used to calculate seats, calling the Election Commission’s action “an intentional abuse of the law and against the constitution”.
It is part of a lower house coalition with six other parties, including upstart newcomer Future Forward headed by telegenic billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, who led the youth-oriented force to third place in the popular vote and 80 seats.
But Thanathorn has been hounded by legal complaints that the rising star has blasted as “political sabotage”.
He said in a press conference on Wednesday that Future Forward was ready to talk to any party “that does not support Prayuth as a prime minister in order for our democracy to move forward”.
The Election Commission has come under fire for wildly inaccurate initial counts, 2.1 million invalidated ballots, and the staggered release of full results.
It has been flooded with complaints since the election, and recounts and new voting sessions were held in a handful of polling stations.
Even if Prayuth clinches the prime minister’s post, Palang Pracharat may not cobble together enough lower house seats to ram through legislation.
“That means a stalemate in terms of making any policy,” said political scientist Napisa Waitoolkiat of Naresuan University.