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On 17 March 2023 the King of Thailand issued a royal decree on the dissolution of parliament, paving the way for a general election to be held on 14 May.

70 political parties contested the election, with Thailand’s Election Commission reporting a total of 6,679 candidates applying to contest the 500 seats in the House of Representatives.

There were 63 prime ministerial candidates nominated by 43 political parties, with the law allowing up to three candidates per party.

The election was essentially a contest between those who supported the 2014 military coup and those keen to pursue democratic reforms.

One of the key issues for voters was the continuing strong influence of the military and royalist forces in the government. Other factors considered by the electorate were the minimum wage, farm subsidies, welfare and the economy.

On 15 May 2023, after the counting of ballots was completed, Thailand’s Election Commission (EC) declared victory for Pita Limjaroenrat’s Move Forward Party.

EC chairman Ittiporn Boonpracong said Move Forward had won 112 constituency and 39 party list seats, for a total of 151 in the 500-seat House of Representatives.

The Pheu Thai Party was close behind with 141 seats in the new parliament (112 constituency and 29 party list seats). Bhumjaithai came third with 71 seats (68 constituency and 3 party list MPs). The parties aligned to the military performed comparatively poorly.

Pita Limjaroenrat said he was confident he will be able to form a coalition government and his party has formed an alliance with seven other parties, including second-placed Pheu Thai.

However, Pita is not guaranteed to become prime minister: the military-appointed Senate account for a third of votes to choose the prime minister and new legal cases threaten his chances of taking office.

Were Pita and his coalition to form an administration, the shift to a civilian government could see the country playing a more assertive role in global affairs. There could also be a reassessment of Thailand’s relations with autocratic regimes.

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