(Bloomberg) -- A pro-military party in Thailand won the backing of a key swing party, taking it closer to forming a coalition government with a slim majority after March’s disputed election.
The swing party, Bhum Jai Thai, will start discussing the details of the alliance immediately, its leader Anutin Charnvirakul said in a joint briefing Monday with the pro-military Palang Pracharath party. The bloc will have stability, Anutin said.
Palang Pracharath earlier in the day invited both the Democrat and Bhum Jai Thai parties to form a coalition, saying it is seeking "unity in forming an administration" and that such an alliance would help the country rise above political conflict and build economic confidence.
Palang Pracharath was carved out of the junta that seized power in 2014 and which finally held long-delayed elections two months ago. Adding the two swing parties would take its alliance to about 255 seats in the 500-strong elected lower house. But an anti-junta bloc controls almost half the chamber, raising the risk of legislative gridlock and instability as the two sides jab at each other.
Foreign investors have pulled out a net $1.4 billion from Thai stocks and bonds in 2019 amid the uncertain political outlook. The export-reliant economy is already slowing as the U.S.-China trade war takes its toll.
The Democrat and Bhum Jai Thai parties have a total of 103 seats between them, according to certified results announced earlier this month. Palang Pracharath placed second with 115 seats, and some smaller parties have already pledged to support it.
The Democrat party has yet to officially say if it will accept the invitation.
Coup leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the Palang Pracharath candidate, is seen as the front-runner to return as premier as early as this week. The prime minister will be selected by a joint vote of the elected lower chamber and an appointed Senate replete with junta allies.
Pheu Thai, a party linked to exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, won the most seats in the election and is the biggest member of the anti-junta bloc. Prayuth unseated a Pheu Thai-led administration in 2014.
Anutin said Bhum Jai Thai hadn’t received any invitation to join the rival bloc.
Critics say the March poll was unfair with rules stacked in favor of the military establishment to prevent Thaksin’s allies taking power. The Election Commission has said there’s no reason to invalidate the vote.
(Updates with pro-military bloc winning backing from first paragraph.)
--With assistance from Anchalee Worrachate and Yumi Teso.
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