With less than 6 months before a new general election is held on 7 May 2023, Thailand is ready to wave goodbye to its 25th parliament. However, between the 2019 and 2023 elections, the electoral system was changed by parliament again, one that is likely going to prevent medium and small sized parties from holding the balance of power again.
The 25th parliament has been chaotic, and is yet very likely to stay the full term, only the second time ever in Thai history, a crazy fact considering that at one time the government coalition consisted of 19 parties led by PPRP (Right). 29 parties at one point had a seat within the House of Representatives, also the most ever in Thai history.
In the 2017 constitution that was approved by the voters in the 2016 referendum, the electoral system was greatly changed for the first time since 1997, from two ballots parallel voting between single-member constituency and proportional party-list to one ballot additional member system. This was changed to make it much harder for a single party to win a majority of seats in parliament again as was the case with PTP (Centrist) in 2011, and it worked..
Instead, what Thai voters got is a very chaotic parliament. 26 parties entered the parliament, and thanks to calculation from the Electoral Commission, PPRP managed to form a 19 party-coalition government (11 of which only have 1 MP per party) and the government still only has an 8 seat majority.. Over time, the coalition and majority grew thanks to the collapse of FFP (Centre-left), by-election victories, and NEP (Centrist) changing sides.
To counter the new electoral system, PTP in 2019 resorted to a “branching out” strategy that would divide the party into two. (PTP as the main party and TRC (*) as the secondary vote-catching party.). A strategy that failed as TRC nominated the king’s sister as their candidate for prime minister, resulting in its dissolution.
In 2021, the parliament voted to change the electoral system back to parallel voting. Unsurprisingly, this was supported by the two biggest parties, PTP and PPRP while those who benefitted from the old system (especially MFP (Centre-left), TLP (Liberal), and various 1 MP parties) voted against or abstained..
According to calculations, both PTP and PPRP would receive the most party-list seats, especially the former who received none at all in the last general election (as they were overrepresented thanks to winning too many single member constituency seats). The biggest loser of them all would be none other than MFP, who will see its share in party-list seats dropped by nearly half, along with smaller parties such as TLP (Liberal), FTN (Centrist). And NEP (Centrist).
Not only that, but the parliament also voted to change the ratio of constituency seat and party-list seat from 350:150 to 400:100, which will undoubtedly increase the number of party-list votes smaller parties need to gain representation in the parliament. As of the article’s publication, the Electoral Commission has only announced constituency seats each province will receive in the next general election, and not the new electoral boundaries..
Whatever happens, the 2022 general election and the 26th parliament will result in a parliament that is more unrepresentative. Polls currently indicate that PTP and PPRP will win most votes, and therefore, most seats in the parliament, leaving behind smaller parties to collect leftover seats and have smaller say in the country.