Results from last Sunday’s Thai election have been a centre of great controversy. The electoral commission released complete preliminary results yesterday, although they had to be withdrawn and reissued after the media identified numerous problems in the figures.
Most concerning is the fact that turnout, reported last weekend to be around 65%, has now increased to 74.7%, with no explanation offered for the discrepancy.
I suggested in my preview that the election would be “something like a genuine democratic exercise,” and the caveat is important: when an incumbent military ruler is one of the candidates, what you get is not really democracy. There’s ample evidence that the military has used its fair share of dirty tricks.
But if the preliminary results hold up, the outcome is very close. An alliance of seven anti-military parties, led by Pheu Thai and Future Forward, has 45.6% of the vote and 253 of the 500 seats in the House of Representatives. The military’s vehicle, Palang Pracharat, has 23.3% and 118 seats, while its ally, the misnamed Democrat Party, has another 10.9% and 54 seats.
The only other party to get significant support was Bhumjaithai with 10.3% and 52 seats. If it sides with the military, that would potentially bring it to 224 seats, with the remaining 23 scattered among half a dozen minor parties.
When it comes to choosing a prime minister, the generals also have the Senate, with its 250 appointed members, to throw into the scales. But a government that faced a hostile lower house would be in constant difficulty, and would cast yet further doubt on the military’s claim to have returned Thailand to democracy.
Slovakia held the first round of its presidential election a fortnight ago (see my preview here). As expected, anti-corruption activist Zuzana Čaputová took a clear lead, with 40.6% – more than double the vote of the runner-up, vice-president of the European Commission Maroš Šefčovič, who had 18.7%.
Polls consistently show Čaputová winning with more than 60% in the runoff, to be held tomorrow. The presidency is mostly ceremonial, but a big win for Čaputová would be a blow to the ruling Smer-SD party and its leader, Robert Fico, in advance of parliamentary elections due within the next twelve months.
Estonia’s parliamentary election, held at the beginning of the month, has yet to result in a new government. But there has been progress of a sort, with prime minister Jüri Ratas and his Centre Party (liberal-populist and pro-Russian) opening coalition talks with the centre-right Pro Patria and the far-right Conservative People’s Party (EKRE).
The three parties between them would have a 13-seat majority, with a combined 57 of the 101 seats. But while in many countries an alliance between a pro-Russian and the far right would be unremarkable, in Estonia it is surprising, to say the least, since Estonian nationalism is historically anti-Russian.
It’s fair to say that EKRE is less extreme than a number of other parties on the European far right. Nonetheless, the talks have been widely criticised, both by Centre Party members and by European liberals, and it is by no means assured that a coalition will eventuate. If it doesn’t, there are other options available.
Moldova, which voted the week before Estonia, produced a more straightforward election result, but there too the shape of the next government is uncertain.
Three parties shared most of the seats: the Socialists with 35, the Democratic Party with 30 and ACUM with 26. Another ten went to a minor party plus independents, but mathematically they are irrelevant: any two of the big three will be necessary and sufficient for a majority.
We seem to be no closer to working out which two that will be. ACUM are pro-European and the Socialists are pro-Russian, so that is clearly the least likely pairing. The Democrats, the party of oligarch Vlad Plahotniuc, are capable of swinging to either side, but for now they have proposed joining with ACUM, even offering it the post of prime minister.
ACUM seems cool on the idea, which would compromise its anti-corruption credentials, but ultimately it may need to choose between that and driving the Democrats into the arms of the Socialists.