Likely coalition scenarios after Thailand’s election

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BANGKOK, May 17 (Reuters) – Thailand’s two main opposition parties, which won big in Sunday’s election and trounced parties backed by the powerful military, are seeking to put together a ruling coalition that has enough votes to install a pro-democracy prime minister.

They face a battle that could take weeks or months and ultimately their success is not guaranteed – and that is assuming that they can stick together.

A vote in parliament – combining the votes of the 500-seat elected House of Representatives and the 250-seat Senate that was appointed by the military – is expected by August. To elect a prime minister, any coalition would need 376 votes.

Here are some of the likely coalition scenarios that could emerge in the coming weeks:

PRO-DEMOCRACY GOVERNMENT LED BY MOVE FORWARD

The progressive Move Forward party has the most seats in the House of Representatives with 152 and its main ally Pheu Thai Party has 141 seats.

Together with several other smaller parties in what they call the pro-democracy front, they say they have 310 votes in the 500-seat lower house.

To get to the required 376 votes, Move Forward would have to attract more allies or persuade senators to support what they say is the clear will of the people.

That is still possible, but some analysts say Move Forward’s progressive platform and its campaign call to amend a law punishing criticism of Thailand’s king by up to 15 years in prison make the party an anathema to potential partners.

PHEU THAI-LED GRAND COALITION, WITHOUT MOVE FORWARD

Pheu Thai is publicly making strong calls for a government led by Move Forward. One of its top leaders said this week it isn’t considering any other coalition arrangements.

Still, analysts say that Pheu Thai – which has been very careful in its messaging about the monarchy, one of Thailand’s culturally sacrosanct institutions – does have options that don’t include Move Forward.

With its 141 seats, Pheu Thai could join with the third-place party Bhumjaithai (70 seats) as well as current ruling party Palang Pracharat (40 seats) and several other smaller parties.

That might seem odd, since Palang Pracharat’s leader General Prawit Wongsuwon was part of the military junta led by army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha who seized power in 2014.

But Prawit and Prayuth parted ways before the election and Prayuth’s own offshoot party fared poorly.

If Pheu Thai were able to make a deal with Prawit, the Senate’s 250 votes would likely come with the general’s bloc, making perhaps the most stable government.

But any such deal would likely be conditional on cutting out the top vote-getter, Future Forward, and that would be risky for Pheu Thai politically.

MILITARY-BACKED MINORITY GOVERNMENT

Starting with the 250 votes of the Senate, the election-losing opponents of Move Forward and Pheu Thai could technically have the votes to elect their own choice of prime minister.

But such an option would effectively thwart the will of the people and runs the highest risk of political unrest. It would likely bring Future Forward’s largely youthful supporters onto streets, a potential repeat of 2020 when tens of thousands of student protesters paralysed the capital for months.

Neither Move Forward itself nor Pheu Thai were involved in the 2020 protests, but if both parties were excluded from government, they would likely join forces in mass street demonstrations.

It also would create a legislative mess because Move Forward and Pheu Thai have a clear majority in the lower house – meaning they could block legislation and also remove any pro-military prime minister in a vote of no confidence.

DEADLOCK WITH NO GOVERNMENT FORMED FOR MONTHS

There is no constitutional deadline for formation of a government, so if no compromise is reached, Thailand could be looking at months without a working government.

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