George McLeod is Managing Director for Access Asia and is based in Singapore and Vancouver. He is a board member of Opposition International.

Move Forward Party and its leader, Pita Limchareonrat, lead in unofficial results

The military lost the election, but they left a gift that will keep on giving that allows them to make the new pro-democracy coalition almost unworkable.

That gift is an unelected Senate quietly formed under the 2017 constitution that can veto appointments, prime ministerial appointments and legislation.

Thai senators are appointed by the military, and can in effect – give the ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ to any act of the new government.
Despite the celebrations around Sunday’s elections to the House of Representatives, the Senate is far more powerful. They sit for five-year terms and unlike the exciting, young faces of the elected parliament – Senators are mostly obscure mid-tier elites that nobody has heard of: academics, former government commissioners, and conservative media figures.

But as the new government takes form (likely a coalition of the progressive Move Forward Party and pro-Thaksin Pheu Thai), the senate’s importance as Thailand’s holdout of conservative, pro-military power will come to the fore as it obstructs and ties down the new leaders. The Senate will be the military’s ‘men on the ground’ holding reform and democracy down in lieu of a military coup.

As the senate’s power obstructionist power becomes more apparent, Thailand could see a return to 2010-style protests in the coming years.