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Thai election runners-up inch closer to coalition majority

Bangkok (AFP) – Thailand’s Pheu Thai party inched closer to forming a government and clearing the kingdom’s political logjam on Thursday, announcing another party had joined its coalition, nearly three months after elections.

The kingdom has been politically deadlocked after the reformist Move Forward Party (MFP), which won the most seats in the May polls, was unable to get its leader approved as prime minister by Parliament.

Pheu Thai, the party associated with exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and which finished second, has taken the lead in trying to form a coalition, with MFP dropping out.

Pheu Thai said on Thursday that the Chart Thai Pattana Party had agreed to add its 10 seats to the now nine-party coalition, which musters 238 MPs – just 12 short of a lower house majority.

“We will collaborate to ease the problems of this country,” a Pheu Thai statement said.

“As soon as we set up the government, we will be able to fix the country’s problems as soon as possible.”

The Bhumjaithai party, which served in the outgoing army-linked government led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-Cha, threw its 71 MPs behind the coalition this week.

Pheu Thai has nominated businessman Srettha Thavisin as their candidate for prime minister and a vote to approve him is expected in the coming weeks.

To become prime minister, a candidate must be approved by a majority of both houses of Parliament – the 500 elected MPs and the 250 senators appointed under the last junta.

Reformist MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat was unable to secure the top job despite winning the most seats because he was blocked by senators.

His party rode support from young and urban Thais to finish first in May but their promises to break up business monopolies and amend strict royal defamation laws spooked Thailand’s powerful conservative establishment.

Several parties, including Bhumjaithai, said they would play no part in any government that included MFP.

Pheu Thai Party leader Chonlanan Srikaew and Bhumjaithai Party leader Anutin Charnvirakul gesture to each other following a press conference at the Pheu Thai Party’s headquarters in Bangkok on August 7. PHOTO: AFP