6 June 2024

Could Thailand break world record time for forming new govt?

Three months have passed since the May 14 general election, and Thailand’s next government is still nowhere in sight.

Waiting much longer could very well earn Thailand a place among countries that have suffered the biggest delays in forming governments after elections.

However, the kingdom is unlikely to match world record-holder Belgium, which waited almost two years (652 days) between 2019 and 2020 for a new government to be formed. Now though, Thailand is edging closer to Germany, which had been without a new government for about four months after a general election in September 2017.

Thailand’s current record

Thailand’s current record is 108 days, seen after the previous general election in March 2019. The Palang Pracharath Party, which had then-junta leader General Prayut Chan-o-cha as its sole prime ministerial candidate, managed to form a new government after securing majority support for Prayut in a parliamentary vote.

Palang Pracharath came second in the election after Pheu Thai but succeeded in forming a multiparty coalition with a majority vote in the House of Representatives.

However, majority control was only secured after prolonged bargaining and negotiation with potential coalition partners.

General Prayut was appointed prime minister by royal command on July 9, 2019 – 107 days after the election on March 24 that year. His Cabinet received royal endorsement on the following day – 108 days after the election.

Average time of wait

Previously, the longest time spent waiting for a new Thai government after an election was 45 days. Following the December 23, 2007 election, Samak Sundaravej was appointed prime minister on January 29, 2008, with his Cabinet royally endorsed on February 6 that year.

Thirty-one days is the average wait for a new government after a general election.

Over the past 91 years of constitutional monarchy, Thailand has seen 24 new governments formed after the elections.

The first election was held on November 15, 1933, just over a year after the country’s transformation from an absolute monarchy into a constitutional monarchy. At that time, the prime minister and the Cabinet were appointed 31 days after the election.

The world record-holder

Belgium was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2011 for holding the record of the “longest time without a government in peacetime”.

After elections were held on June 13, 2010, the European nation was ruled by a caretaker government for 541 days until King Albert II appointed a new cabinet and a new prime minister on December 5, 2011. The new government took office the following day.

Belgium broke its own record in 2020 when it had to wait as long as 652 days before a new government could be formed following a federal election in May 2019.

The winning political party secured only 16% of the 150 MP seats up for grabs while the second-placed party got 12%. The potential coalition partners spent almost two years negotiating over their diverse policy platforms before they finally reached a deal to form a new government.

The runners-up

According to the Guinness World Records, Cambodia previously held the record, having taken 354 days to form a government after its general election in July 2003.

The winning party gained a simple majority in parliament but was blocked from forming a new government because a two-thirds majority was needed to elect a prime minister. As a result, the new government was not formed until July 2004.

Spain is third-placed, with 315 days spent after a general election in December 2015 before a new government could be set up. The winning party failed to secure a majority of House seats and spent over 10 months negotiating with its potential allies before reaching a deal to form a new administration.

In 2010, Iraq went without a fully functioning government for 289 days from the elections to the day on which the new administration took office. The Arab country experienced a serious political crisis between 2010 and 2011, after the legislative elections, in which Sunnis and Shi’ites negotiated for almost one year over the formation of a new government.

The Netherlands waited for 225 days in 2017 to get a new government after a general election. The four potential coalition partners, which included conservative and liberal parties, spent over 200 days negotiating to settle their policy differences over such issues as same-sex marriage.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk