Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra conceded last night that the popularity of upstart progressive party Move Forward prevailed in the election in a post-mortem of the second-place showing of the movement he’s led directly or indirectly for over two decades.
Addressing fans in a livestream, the Clubhouse-loving fugitive Pheu Thai Party founder congratulated all newly elected lawmakers and the Move Forward Party for outperforming his team, which he insists remains in high spirits, and sought to dismiss fears he would broker a secret deal to form a competing government.
“We are going to learn from our mistakes, make improvements, and allow the older generation to step back a little in politics,” the exiled head of the Shinawatra dynasty said in a chat with starchitect Duangrit Bunnag and former journalist and government flack Teerat Ratanasevi. “Today we must retreat, not think to resolve, but we must really retreat. It’s no longer our era. Pita Limjaroenrat, he’s 42, whatever he says is smart. He is in tune with the present and future world.”
He noted Move Forward’s powerful momentum, congratulated its near sweep of all Bangkok constituencies, and praised the party’s social media game, comparing it to a small-scale enterprise that creates pleasing new products that disrupts the old guard.
All bets had been on Pheu Thai once again flexing its power and coming out ahead in Sunday’s general election. In a surprise upset, the five-year-old progressive movement fronted by Move Forward won in a landslide, securing 36.2% of the vote and 152 seats in parliament. Pheu Thai scored 26.7% and 141 seats, followed by the military proxy party of United Thai Nation’s 36 seats with 11.9% support.
Thaksin compared Move Forward’s success in inspiring voters to a new marketing approach the older generation may not understand. (Not unless they are 73-year-old Thaksin.) He added that it succeeded without spending a lot of money to gain a significant number of “natural votes.” (Those unaccustomed to buying them might just call these “votes.”) Meanwhile, he observed that other parties scored constituency seats the old-fashioned way – by buying them.
In his Tuesday-night quarterbacking, he blamed Pheu Thai’s distant second place on its ground game. He said that while the party did well in 112 constituencies, its unsuccessful candidates’ failure to campaign intensively resulted in their defeat.
He said the party now led by his daughter Paetongtarn would have to learn and adapt but said everyone is in good sports about their loss and ready to join a coalition with the orange juggernaut that fed them their lunches.
He also sought to dispel persistent rumors circulating before the election that Pheu Thai had been building secret alliances to form a government, even with its longtime military antagonists, that would shut out Move Forward. He said no such deals had been pursued.
Thaksin further emphasized that regardless of Phei Thai’s performance, what’s important to him was returning home to care for his seven grandchildren.
Despite Pheu Thai’s failure to triumph at the ballot box, he reaffirmed his intentions to return in July after living in exile abroad for the past 17 years.
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