Is Thailand’s opposition ready for an election?

The news that 21 MPs would be leaving the ruling party after internal disagreements has kickstarted the slumbering Thai political landscapes.

Coalition partners on Thursday made calls and rushed meetings to ensure that their positions were secured. The ruling party called financial and political backers to ensure them that power still belong with them.

The opposition meanwhile kickstarted election protocols, with many foreseeing or predicting the demise of the Prayut Chan-ocha government.

But while meetings were hastily organized, flights were quickly booked, and every piece of political gossip was scrutinized and analysed, questions still linger over whether the political opposition was ready for polls.

It is no secret that the opposition parties have lost nearly every by-election up for grabs since the general election in 2019.

The leaders of the opposition have not presented a united front and have often got into each other’s way leaving room for the ruling party gobble up seats.

It is also no secret that the two largest opposition party, the Thaksin Shinawatra-backed Pheu Thai Party and the progressive Move Forward Party do not not see eye-to-eye and their alliance (if that!) is one of convenience rather than shared belief.

Since the election in 2019, Pheu Thai have also voted (with the ruling party) to change the electoral rules with them being one of the biggest beneficiaries and Move Forward one of the biggest losers.

The underlying tension means that cooperation between the parties will likely be non-existent at a time when cooperation over constituencies is absolutely vital to taking down the PPRP.

Remember that if polls were called tomorrow, the ruling party may be down 21 MPs, but they will still have the 250 military-appointed senators on their side. Not mention the trump card that is the Constitutional Court which has voted against the opposition at every opportunity for well over a decade.

Yet despite knowing that the odds are stacked against both Pheu Thai and Move Forward, party leaders on both side have not reached meaningfully to their counterparts. There is no strategic agreement on where to run candidates and where to not. If both parties are to be believed, then both parties will run for seats in every province. In closely contested areas in the capital and in the south this means they will likely undercut each other and feed parliament seats to the ruling conservative bloc.

If the progressive and democratic voices in the opposition want to be taken seriously, and if they are serious about bringing down this government, then they need to show the electorate that they can work together and maybe even sacrifice a little. Until then, the election is still the ruling party’s to lose.

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