After an ineptly rigged election, Thailand’s junta will cling to power

Mar 28, 2019

“WE HAVE RECEIVED a mandate from the people,” declared Sudarat Keyuraphan, a leader of the Pheu Thai party. She was introducing a slate of seven parties that she said had won a narrow majority in the lower house of parliament in the election held on March 24th. Parties linked to Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister ousted in a military coup, have won every election in the past 20 years. Pheu Thai, his current vehicle, seems to have won more seats than any other this time, too. But the results also mark a victory for the military junta running the country, which rigged the process to reduce Pheu Thai’s showing and will probably deny it the chance to form a government.

Initial results suggest Pheu Thai won 137 of the 500 seats in the lower house. That is more than any other party, but a far lower share than in previous elections. The system of proportional representation the generals used hurt Pheu Thai. So did official harassment of its activists, the banning of an allied party and rules that made it difficult to campaign via social media and barred all but the tiniest political gatherings until December.

These same distortions helped Palang Pracharat, a party founded last year to support the generals, win perhaps 116 seats overall. But Future Forward, another party opposed to the generals, is set to become the...

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