A Look at the Election Results
This map visualizes the provisional results of constituency races, using the latest figures from the Election Commission:
These results have Pheu Thai netting 203 constituency seats, but there are some 23 races that are probably too close to make a definitive call in the following provinces: Bangkok, Samut Prakan, Kanchanaburi, Nakhon Nayok, Prachinburi, Samut Sahkon, Amnat Charoen, Buriram, Ubon Ratchathani, Nakhon Sawan, Phitsanulok, and Yala. By my count, Pheu Thai is ahead in 12 of these races and trails in 11.
Assuming that these results hold, Pheu Thai’s success is rooted in its better than expected performance in the Northeast and to a lesser extent in the North. In the Northeast, while Thai Rath’s predictions (which turned out pretty accurate overall) had Pheu Thai winning 89 seats, the party is on track to win 104. Compared to expectations, its result was especially impressive in Korat (+4), Surin (+5), Ubon (+3), and Roi Et (+3). Seats Pheu Thai dropped in Si Saket and Chaiyaphum were offset by pick-ups in Yasothon and Nakhon Phanom.
In the North, Pheu Thai will probably end up with 49 seats, against the prediction of 43. Aside from holding the upper north, Pheu Thai’s success is a result of its performance in the lower north provinces of Kamphaeng Phet (+2), Nakhon Sawan (+2), Phetchabun (+1), and Phitsanulok (+1). While Pheu Thai lost one lower north seat it was expected to win in Sukhothai, that loss was offset by winning every race in Chiang Mai.
Pheu Thai did somewhat worse than expected in the Central region (excluding Bangkok), where it will end up with 40 seats (it was predicted to earn 44). There seems to be a bit of a geographical pattern to Pheu Thai’s losses, which came in the western provinces Ratchaburi, Kanchanaburi, and possibly Samut Sakhon. Losses in Chonburi are compensated by pick-ups in Singburi and Saraburi.
Of course, what kept Pheu Thai’s success from being even more resounding is the unexpected (and unexpectedly wide, in terms of seats) defeat in Bangkok. I agree with BangkokPundit that the Democrats’ negative campaign in the final stretch might have flipped a few constituencies in the capital.
Overall, considering the events since the coup, it is quite remarkable that Pheu Thai scored the best election result of any party in the history of Thailand (factoring in the party list seats, ending up with 264 seats or thereabouts out of 500), exception made for Thai Rak Thai’s crushing performance in 2005. As I had commented after the last round of by-elections in December, Pheu Thai had much more room to grow than the Democrats, but I remained skeptical of its ability to “nationalize” elections in the provinces in ways that would allow it to dispatch popular small-party candidates (particularly in the Northeast and the Central region). In this endeavor, Pheu Thai was mostly successful, due in large part to Yingluck’s candidacy, whose selection and highly scripted performance looks like a stroke of genius in retrospect.
It should also be noted that Pheu Thai has an opportunity to build on this result, through both of the strategies that Thaksin had used to build his old coalition: 1) Implementing policies that induce voters to regard the party as more important than the sum of its personalities; and 2) Co-opting small party MPs like those in Bhum Jai Thai through a mixture of positive and negative inducements.
In other words, Thaksin could be on his way to re-rebuilding his old coalition. Whether that will be allowed to happen is, of course, an entirely different matter. If it does happen, however, one can only hope that Pheu Thai will use its dominance in a more judicious, responsible, and liberal manner than Thai Rak Thai did in the past. Majority rule is important, but Thailand can do much better than a merely “plebiscitarian” democracy.