Analysis: How dissolution changes complexion of Thai political game
The mathematical context of the March 24 Thai general election does not change in the wake of the Constitutional Court’s dissolution of the Thai RaksaChart Party. The Pheu Thai-led alliance still needs 376 MPs to regain political power, but it will have to win big and lose well at constituencies.
The mountain to climb is, however, getting a lot steeper. To avoid clashing with Thai Raksa Chart too much in the upcoming election, Pheu Thai has fielded candidates in only 250 constituencies. It’s the first time that this political camp is not contesting at all available constituencies, meaning that the court ruling has dealt Pheu Thai a big election blow.
Thai Raksa Chart had branched out from Pheu Thai in a bid to beat the new rule on the proportional system, which offers a combined 150 seats to parties that gather sizeable numbers of votes nationwide which may not necessarily win at any constituency.Since the Pheu Thai-led alliance needs 376 House of Representatives seats in the election, the absence of Thai Raksa Chart is having a huge impact on that numerical target.
Another possible damaging factor for Pheu Thai is potential reluctance of the so-called “swing parties” — the likes of Chartthaipattana, Bhumjaithai and Chartpattana — to join the alliance after the election, thanks to the dissolution ruling. Since Pheu Thai has close connections with Thai Raksa Chart, the swing parties as well as the Democrats will have to think really hard who they will back as the next government.
Simple mathematics say that even if Pheu Thai wins all of the 250 constituencies, which is highly unlikely, it will still need 126 more. Considering predictions of something like a 150-seat sweep, give or take a few, the situation becomes a lot more difficult.
If allies like Puea Chat, Future Forward and Seri Ruam Thai parties fail to win like 50 seats each, Pheu Thai and them can end up in the opposition bloc. Is the 50-seat scenario possible? If they win good numbers of constituency seats and gather many “good losses” that allow their proportional MPs to slip through, Pheu Thai may stand a chance.
Pheu Thai’s allies can manage to “lose well” and thus win some seats from the proportional system. But Pheu Thai itself will not benefit much, if at all, from the system, mathematical experts say.
Here’s how the new proportional system works: All ballots cast for all parties will be counted together and calculated into the number of seats each party gets out of 500. If it is figured out that Party A gets 200 seats and it already wins 190 constituency seats in the election, it will get an additional 10 seats.
On the surface, the “Every Vote Counts” principle is quite democratic. In the context of the March 24 election, the rule can also mean:
– The Palang Pracharat Party, which nominates Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha as the prime minister, can get several seats without having to win at any constituency, not least because it has taken many northern and northeastern veterans under its wings.
– Narrow constituency wins are no longer a cause for celebration, as was previously the case.
– If a party has a lot of constituency MPs, it will have a disadvantage when it comes to getting MPs from the proportional system. Thai Raksa Chart branched out from Pheu Thai allegedly out of hope that “many are better than one”. The “satellite parties” do not need to win at constituencies, but they should be popular enough to gain substantial votes.
In short, Pheu Thai and its allies need a groundswell of public sympathy. The court’s short but eloquent ruling dissolving Thai Raksa Chart will be weighed against the emotional goodbye message of the party’s leader and the outcome of that will influence voters. After the verdict, Preechaphol Pongpanich said he accepted the ruling, but insisted that his party had nothing but good intention when it nominated Princess Ubolratana for prime minister.