Thailand’s pro-army party won popular vote: election commission

Thai opposition parties announce the formation of a ‘democratic front’ during a press conference in Bangkok on Wednesday, March 27, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 28 March 2019

Thailand’s pro-army party won popular vote: election commission

  • The main opposition Pheu Thai Party got 7.9 million votes
  • The results represented 100 percent of the ballots counted but would remain unofficial

BANGKOK: Thailand’s pro-army Palang Pracharat Party won the popular vote in Sunday’s general election with 8.4 million ballots, the Election Commission said on Thursday as it released unofficial results of the first election since a military coup in 2014.
The main opposition Pheu Thai Party, whose elected government was toppled in the coup, got 7.9 million votes, said Krit Urwongse, deputy secretary-general of the Election Commission.
The results represented 100 percent of the ballots counted but would remain unofficial until final results are announced on May 9.
The commission has not announced the full number of seats for each party in the 500-seat House of Representatives.
Results for the lower house’s 350 directly elected “constituent seats” showed Pheu Thai with 137 and the Palang Pracharat with 97.
The remaining 150 House of Representatives seats are allocated according to a complex formula involving the total number of votes for each party.
However, parties have been calculating their share of the allocated seats based on partial results, and both Palang Pracharat and Pheu Thai have claimed they have a mandate to form the next government.


‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

Updated 24 min 51 sec ago

‘Clear risks’ for stability in China’s Pacific lending, Australian think tank warns

SYDNEY: China’s financial largesse in the Pacific carries “clear risks” for stability if left unchecked, a Sydney think tank warned, while saying allegations of “debt-trap” diplomacy are so far overblown.
In a study released Monday, the influential Lowy Institute warned that fragile Pacific nations risked borrowing too much and leaving themselves exposed to demands from Beijing.
China has repeatedly been accused of offering lucrative but unserviceable loans to gain leverage or snap up strategically vital assets like ports, airports, or electricity providers.
While Lowy said allegations that China was engaged in “debt-trap” diplomacy in the Pacific were overblown, the trend was not positive and countries like Papua New Guinea and Vanuatu were dangerously exposed.
Between 2011 and 2018, China committed loans to the region worth $6 billion — around 21 percent of regional GDP.
A majority of that money, $4.1 billion, was earmarked for Papua New Guinea.
Only a fraction, less than $1 billion, has so far been dispersed but China is still the single largest creditor in Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu.
“The sheer scale of Chinese lending and the lack of strong institutional mechanisms to protect the debt sustainability of borrowing countries mean a continuation of business as usual would pose clear risks,” the report said.
The South Pacific has become a forum for intense competition for influence between China, the United States, and Australia in recent years.
The island nations sit on a vital shipping crossroad, contain vast reserves of fish stocks, and provide a potential base for leading militaries to project power well beyond their borders.
Beijing has stepped up engagement in the region through a series of high profile visits and no-conditions lending via its Belt and Road Initiative.
The Solomon Islands and Kiribati recently announced they would switch diplomatic recognition from Taiwan to Beijing after a long courtship by the country’s Communist leaders.
Six Pacific governments are currently debtors to Beijing — the Cook Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tonga, and Vanuatu.
Lowy said many of China’s loans carry a modest two percent annual interest rate.
But it warned that China would need to adopt formal lending rules if loans were to be made sustainable as natural disasters like earthquakes, cyclones and tsunamis can quickly upend countries’ ability to pay back loans.
“Three small Pacific economies — Tonga, Samoa, and Vanuatu — also appear to be among those most heavily indebted to China anywhere in the world,” it said.