Srettha Thavisin from the populist Pheu Thai party has secured the parliament’s approval to become Thailand’s next prime minister. This marks the beginning of a new coalition government and an end to weeks of uncertainty and political deadlock.
Srettha, a prominent property mogul, clinched victory with 482 votes out of 727 politicians present on Tuesday, finally putting an end to months of suspense, legal disputes, and political bargaining that had followed the May elections.
The progressive Move Forward Party, which had won the most votes in the national election, was prevented from assuming power due to opposition from conservative senators.
This vote took place shortly after the return of Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire figurehead of the Pheu Thai party, who had been in self-imposed exile for years.
Srettha, a newcomer to politics, is now tasked with the challenging job of forming and maintaining a potentially delicate coalition government, which will include parties with military backing, responsible for overthrowing Pheu Thai governments in coups in 2006 and 2014.
Srettha will lead an alliance of 11 parties, including two pro-military parties affiliated with the outgoing Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led the 2014 coup. The Move Forward Party is not part of this coalition.
Critics have labeled the new government as a betrayal of the election results, but Pheu Thai leaders argue that it is necessary to break the political deadlock and promote reconciliation.
Supporters at Pheu Thai party headquarters celebrated with dancing in red attire.
“I will give my utmost effort and work tirelessly to enhance the quality of life for the people of Thailand,” stated Srettha.
Pheu Thai excluded the Move Forward Party, citing its commitment to changing the royal defamation law as a hindrance to garnering enough support from other parties and the Senate.
Under the military-imposed constitution, both houses of parliament vote together for the prime minister, a setup designed to preserve conservative military-backed rule.
Pheu Thai disclosed that it would control eight cabinet positions and nine deputy cabinet positions. The military-backed parties, Palang Pracharath and United Thai Nation, would each receive two cabinet positions and two deputy positions. The specific ministries allocated to each party were not disclosed.
The coalition has agreed to support Pheu Thai’s agenda, which includes boosting the economy, raising the minimum wage, and ending mandatory conscription. They also plan to continue the legalization of medical cannabis and work on amending the constitution to enhance democracy in the country, while avoiding changes to the royal defamation law.
The parliamentary vote occurred shortly after the return of the divisive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who had been in self-imposed exile, primarily in Dubai, for years.
Thaksin’s return was an emotional moment for his supporters, as the 74-year-old billionaire had won the allegiance of millions with populist policies that focused on improving the welfare of the predominantly rural north of the country.
Thaksin and the parties aligned with him had a long-standing struggle with the military. He left Thailand 15 years ago following a 2006 coup during his second term, which triggered years of political turmoil. His sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, who led a Pheu Thai government, was ousted in 2014 by then-army chief Prayuth.