The coalition government led by the Move Forward Party will face multiple hurdles in taking control
The complex and unpredictable political environment in Thailand will negatively impact investor confidence in the coming months. This, coupled with elevated costs and a global economic slowdown, will dampen growth in domestic and foreign investment in 2023. We forecast domestic investment to grow by a marginal 2.0% YOY this year.
If the coalition government led by the Move Forward Party (MFP) is able to successfully assume power, firms should prepare for substantive policy changes in Thailand. The MFP will likely raise the minimum wage, subject to yearly revisions, and provide substantial cash handouts for the elderly, as well as low- and middle-income consumers. These measures will boost retail spending in the medium term, providing faster growth for B2C firms. A change in government also carries the risk of delays or suspensions of major infrastructure projects, such as those in the Eastern Economic Corridor. In such a scenario, B2B firms may experience disruptions or declines in business demand in the short term.
If the military government prevents the MFP and its allies from taking power, it is highly likely that the capital city of Bangkok will witness large-scale protests. These demonstrations would harm businesses’ operations and negatively affect the tourism industry. There is a higher probability of these protests occurring in August, once all the election procedures are completed.
- General elections were conducted on May 14 in Thailand. The elections saw a record voter turnout of 75.2% of eligible voters.
- Per a preliminary vote count by the Election Commission of Thailand, the MFP won the most seats in parliament with 152 seats, closely trailed by the Pheu Thai Party (PTP) which won the second-highest number of seats with 141.
- As the MFP did not secure enough seats to assume power, it signed a coalition agreement with seven other parties.
The Thai election results are a strong rebuke to the military establishment. However, executives should avoid drawing solid conclusions for now, as Thailand’s pro-democratic base faces multiple challenges and risks on the path to forming a new government.
In mid-July, the parliament will convene to elect the new prime minister. MFP’s Pita Limjaroenrat will face an uphill battle in his bid for the position, as he will require substantial votes from the Senate, which primarily includes allies of the military government. The Senate holds 250 seats out of the total 750 seats in parliament, making it particularly challenging for any candidate that is deeply unpalatable to the military establishment to secure the 376 seats needed to become the PM. In fact, it was due to this reason that Thailand’s incumbent prime minister Prayut Chan-o-cha came into power in 2019 despite his party receiving much fewer seats than the PTP at that time.
The MFP-led coalition also faces the risk of being removed from the government through legal maneuvers or a military coup, both of which have been employed by the military in the past. The likelihood of these risks materializing is significant, particularly given the coalition government’s bold reform agenda, which includes the elimination of the military-drafted constitution. In addition to these challenges, there remains a level of uncertainty regarding the election outcome, as the Election Commission has not yet released an official vote count.
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