The head of the ruling military junta in Thailand since the 2014 coup, Prayut Chan-O-Cha, was unsurprisingly elected Wednesday night as prime minister.
The 65-year-old general won 500 votes against 244 for his only rival, a young billionaire at the head of an anti-junta coalition, according to a countdown broadcast on television.
The victory of Prayut Chan-O-Cha was practically achieved because the new Constitution, adopted in 2017, grants to the army the nomination of the 250 senators.
He needed only 126 votes among the 500 deputies to keep his position as prime minister.
A threshold easily reached Wednesday night after two months of intense negotiations of the party of the junta, Palang Pracharat, who has won the rally of several conservative movements, in the first rank of which the old Democratic Party.
Faced with Prayut Chan-O-Cha, the billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, founder of the new opposition party Future Forward, could not make the weight.
“Today does not mark an end but a beginning,” he said after the announcement of his defeat. “We will work even harder for the future of our children,” he added.
Highly acclaimed by the youth, his movement had created a surprise in the legislative elections of March 24, becoming the third political force in the country.
Since then, the legal troubles, denounced as political, have accumulated for the charismatic businessman of 40 years, temporarily suspended from his mandate of deputy and to whom it was forbidden to enter the hemicycle.
Abhisit Vejjajiva, figure of the Democratic Party and former Prime Minister, created the event Wednesday by announcing in front of the Parliament resigning from his post of deputy.
“I can not join the assembly and vote for General Prayut Chan-O-cha, I can not do that,” he said as the decision to support the generals divides some of his party members .
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Since the legislative elections of March 24, the first since the coup in 2014, the opposition has denounced many frauds and criticized the way the dice were loaded by the military.
Thanathorn had virtually no chance of being elected, even though numerically the anti-junta coalition he represents was far ahead. Without the support of the Senate, it had to get 376 votes in the lower house to form a government, a figure almost impossible to achieve.
The good score of Future Forward, acclaimed by more than 6 million voters, shows in any case that the old political cleavage between the factions “Red” -reforming and close to the influential Shinawatra family and the “Yellow” -l conservative elite aligned with the army-is outdated.
The new king of Thailand Maha Vajiralongkorn insisted at the beginning of May during his coronation on the necessary “unity” of his kingdom.
The monarch intervened twice during the legislative campaign, the first since the 2014 coup d’etat. He opposed a refusal to accept the aspirations of his sister, Princess Ubolratana, to enter politics. for a party close to ex-prime minister in exile Thaksin Shinawatra.
And the day before the election, the ruler urged Thais to “support the right people” to “prevent chaos,” a statement perceived as a support to the military.
In the end, “the new prime minister will have a lot to do to modernize the country and reduce the high inequalities among the population,” noted the former governor of the Thai bank, Chatumongol Sonakul, who to enter Parliament and joined the party of the junta.
Prayut Chan-O-Cha is seen by his supporters as a pledge of stability that can defend the country’s unity and prevent him from plunging into the frequent political crises he has experienced.
But critics point out that since 2014 he has failed to reform the kingdom, modernize the economy and reduce inequality.