Look for Thailand's next government to be a coalition, senior official says

Key Points
  • Panitan Wattanayagorn, a security advisor to Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, said that officials in the pro-military Palang Pracharat Party and Pheu Thai Party — linked to self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra — are in discussions and "talking to all parties."
  • Speaking to CNBC's Sri Jegarajah in Bangkok, Panitan said: "It seems quite likely that the next government will be a coalition party between one big party and maybe two important, medium sized parties."
  • He said that the Bhumjaithai Party will be "a decisive force."
Supporters of Thai opposition party, Pheu Thai, at a political rally in Bangkok the general election on March 24.
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It's "quite likely" that Thailand's next government will be formed through a coalition, a senior government official told CNBC on Monday, as initial tallies came following Sunday's long-awaited election after five years of military rule.

Panitan Wattanayagorn, a security advisor to Thai Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, said that officials in the pro-military Palang Pracharat Party and Pheu Thai Party — linked to self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra — are in discussions and also "talking to all parties."

Speaking to CNBC's Sri Jegarajah in Bangkok, Panitan said: "It seems quite likely that the next government will be a coalition party between one big party and maybe two important, medium-sized parties."

The vote is shaping up as a contest between three groups:

  • A pro-military camp that includes the Palang Pracharat Party — led by current cabinet members in the military regime.
  • An anti-military group that comprises the Pheu Thai Party and the newly founded Future Forward Party.
  • Parties that are neutral or undecided about how they will align themselves.

The last group includes the Bhumjaithai Party, whose vote is said to be crucial to swinging the election's final outcome.

Panitan, who is also a professor at the Chulalongkorn University, said: "It seems quite likely that Bhumjaithai will be a decisive force."

"The final analysis is whoever gains the majority of the seats will form the government," he added, "so Bhumjaithai will be very hard at work today and over the next few days to make sure that they coordinate and communicate with all supporters."

His comments come as Thailand's Election Commission reported the numbers on Monday with 94 percent of votes counted: Palang Pracharat was leading the popular vote with 7.69 million votes, while the Pheu Thai Party was next with 7.23 million votes.

The numbers released were for the popular vote, but those do not reflect parliamentary seats won. Pheu Thai could still take the lion's share of those, because of its concentrated popularity in the north and northeast of the country.

The ruling junta repeatedly postponed general elections after it overthrew an elected government in 2014.

The Sunday vote will determine 500 members of the House of Representatives, the lower chamber of Thailand's legislative branch. The junta will appoint the 250-member Senate, or the upper house.

None of the parties are expected to single-handedly win enough seats in the House to form a government. Therefore, the 250 appointed senators will join their colleagues in the House to select the next prime minister to lead the next government.

Based on a Reuters tally of partial results of the 350 constituency seats contested on Sunday, Pheu Thai was on track to win at least 129 and Palang Pracharat at least 102.

— CNBC's Yen Nee Lee and Reuters contributed to this report.