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New publication co-authored by Director of NIAS Duncan McCargo

Thailand's 2019 Elections: A State of Democratic Dictatorship?

Thailand’s elections on March 24, 2019, were supposed to restore the country to parliamentary democracy following a military coup d’état in May 2014. The junta repeatedly delayed holding the elections, and the new 2017 constitution deployed an unusual voting system combined with interim provisions that allowed the appointed Senate to share in selecting the prime minister, changes that favored the ruling military clique. An important opposition party, Thai Raksa Chart, was dissolved by the Election Commission during the campaign on highly dubious legal grounds. The pro-military Palang Pracharat Party was created as a vehicle to allow junta members to continue in office beyond the elections, and succeeded in taking away millions of votes from the long-standing conservative and royalist Democrat Party. Meanwhile, the previously dominant Pheu Thai Party—closely associated with former prime ministers Thaksin and Yingluck Shinawatra—was challenged by the upstart Future Forward Party, which attracted huge numbers of younger voters with its anti-junta stance. Ultimately, the Democrats entered a fractious multi-party coalition with Palang Pracharat, made possible only when the Election Commission controversially changed the rules for calculating the allocation of party-list seats. As a result, coup leader General Prayuth Chan-ocha was reappointed as prime minister. The palpably unfair election outcome has effectively perpetuated military rule and left those who had supported opposition parties intensely frustrated.

Reference: McCargo, Duncan & Alexander, Saowanee T. “Thailand's 2019 Elections: A State of Democratic Dictatorship?” Asia Policy 14-4 (October 2019)