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BANGKOK, May 15 (Reuters) – Thailand’s two main opposition parties agreed on Monday to form a governing coalition after defeating military-backed rivals in weekend elections.
The Move Forward Party and opposition heavyweight Phu Thai dominated Sunday’s vote in a stunning rout of military-backed parties, but they face challenges in mustering enough support as parliamentary rules created by the military after a 2014 coup were bent in favor of its allies.
Their alliance is to ensure that the bicameral 750-member assembly will vote for the prime minister and its efforts to form a new government with a pro-conservative record will not be blocked by a junta-appointed Senate. Parties led by generals.
Pita Limjaronrath, the 42-year-old leader of Move Forward, proposed a six-party coalition that would capture 309 seats, with him as prime minister. He will fall short of the 376 seats required to ensure his election to the top post.
Asked about the Upper Senate, he said all parties should respect the election result and there is no point in going against it.
“I’m not worried, but I’m not careless,” he told a news conference.
“If anyone thinks about rejecting the election result or forming a minority government, it will be a very big price.”
Pew Thai, which is controlled by the billionaire Shinawatra family, said it agreed with Pita’s proposal and wished him success in his bid to become prime minister.
The party won more seats in every election this century, including twice in landslides, but faced competition from Move Forward as it came close to a sweep of the capital Bangkok and won some Bu Thai and conservative strongholds.
There is no other alliance
“Pyu Thai has no plans to form any other government,” President Sonlanan Srikaev told a press conference.
Asked about the possibility of their coalition being overturned by the upper house, he said: “In principle, senators should respect the voice of the people.”
While the results may seem like a hammer blow to the military and its allies, with parliamentary rules on their side and some influential power brokers behind them, they can decide the shape of a new government.
Move Forward was fueled by waves of enthusiasm among young people with its liberal agenda and promises of bold changes, including breaking up monopolies and reforming the law that insults the monarchy.
The party has added a new dimension to the battle for power centered on the polarizing Shinawatra family and the pro-military establishment for years, bringing two decades of on-and-off turmoil.
Pita said it would move forward with its plan to amend tougher les majeste laws against insulting the monarchy, which critics say have been used to stifle free speech. Thailand’s palace has not commented on the law or its application.
Hundreds of people face charges, some of them in pre-trial detention.
Bida said Parliament would be the right forum to seek amendments to the law or Section 112 of the Penal Code.
“We will use Parliament to ensure that there is a mature and transparent debate on how we should move forward in terms of the relationship between the monarchy and the people,” he said.
Asked if Pheu Thai would support it, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, one of its main candidates, said it could be debated in the legislature.
“Pew Thai has a clear position that we will not abolish 112 but can debate the law in Parliament,” he said.
(This story has been reprinted to correct the spelling of ‘alliance’ in the title)
Reporting by Panarat Thepgumbanad, Sayut Chetpoonsarng and Banu Wongcha-um; Written by Martin Petty; Editing by Robert Birzel
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