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25.03.2019 Europe

Opposition In Thailand Accuses Junta Of Rigging Elections

REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
LISTEN MAR 25, 2019
REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Thailand's military has been accused of manipulating the country's first election since a coup in 2014. Former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his pro-democracy party complained of "irregularities" in preliminary results. The junta is to retain its grip on power despite having only a slight edge in the popular vote.

Thaksin accused the junta of using dirty tricks at the ballot box.

“Everyone knows in Thailand, everyone international that observed the election in Thailand, knows that there are irregularities," he told AFP in an interview on Monday in Hong Kong.

"What we call, we should call, rigged elections is there. It's not good for Thailand," he said, speaking in English.

Sunday's election, widely regarded as a referendum on the military, was held under new rules written by the junta to ease its transformation into a civilian government.

But analysts had not expected the army-linked Phalang Pracharat party to win the popular vote, given anger at junta rule and the enduring popularity of Thaksin's Pheu Thai.

Preliminary figures showed Phalang Pracharat, which had 2014 coup leader Prayut Chan-ocha as its candidate for prime minister, ahead in the popular vote.

The army party had won over 7.6 million votes with more than 90 percent of ballots counted, nearly half a million more votes than Pheu Thai.

However, Pheu Thai had 137 constituency seats in the lower house compared to Phalang Pracharat's 97, according to early figures.

There are still 150 "party list" seats in the lower house up for grabs, where the popular vote will have a greater impact.

But no matter what the final result is, Prayut's party will benefit from a military-appointed 250-member Senate, meaning it needs only 126 lower house seats -- compared to 376 for Pheu Thai.

Pheu Thai may now try and form a pro-democracy coalition, involving Future Forward, an anti-junta party which has won the support of millennials, claiming five million votes and 30 lower house constituency seats.

Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, whose party is key to any alliance, told reporters on Monday that his "greatest concern" is that the junta may stay in power.

The Election Commssion has said it will finalise the results by 9 May.

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