An In-Depth Analysis of Future Forward’s Electoral Success
Updated: Apr 10, 2019
By Allen Hicken and Joel Selway
Figure 1. FFP Vote Share by Province (Left), and Seats Won by All Parties (Right)
Source: Authors’ Own Creation
Nobody predicted the Future Forward Party’s (FFP) success in the March 24, 2019 Thailand elections. Led by a young and charismatic billionaire-businessman-turned-politician, Thanatorn Juangroongruangkit, this new, liberal-democratic party campaigned on a full return to democracy, including changing the military-drafted 2016 constitution, while calling for civilian control of the military and slashing the defense budget.
Nationwide, FFP came in third overall with 17.63% of the vote, much higher than most pre-election polls had predicted. The party’s success is even more impressive if we consider the FFP’s performance outside of the Pheu Thai (PT) and Democrat regional strongholds in the Northeast, and South respectively. Outside of these regions, FFP has arguably emerged as the strongest challenger to the junta-backed Palang Pracharat Party (PPRP). This is clearly the case in Thailand’s heartland (Central Thailand and Bangkok) where FFP was the second biggest vote-getter, but the party was also surprisingly popular in the Upper North (Lanna). In what follows we look more closely at how FFP performed across the various regions in Thailand.
Bangkok is where FFP enjoyed its highest levels of success. FFP pipped PPRP to capture the highest share of Bangkokian’s votes with 25.93% compared to PPRP’s 25.53% and PT’s 19.49%. In terms of seats, the party shared second-place honors with PT, each capturing 9 of Bangkok’s 30 seats. The remaining 12 seats went to PPRP. At the constituency level, each race was essentially a three-horse race between FFP, PPRP, and (where present) PT. FFP placed in the top three in all 30 constituencies, and in four constituencies it missed out on the top spot by less than 3,000 votes. By contrast, PPRP appeared in the top three in 28/30 constituencies. PT was in the top three in all the constituencies where it fielded candidates, but it did not compete in eight constituencies. In the constituencies it lost, FFP was within 5% of the winner 11/21 times, averaging only 5.55% fewer votes than the winner across all 21.
As Figure 1 shows, this region—consisting of the six provinces of Nakhon Pathom, Pathum Thani, Nonthaburi, Samut Prakan, Samut Sakhon, and Samut Songkhram—was also a strong region in terms of votes FFP. FFP again came in first with 24.87% of the vote compared to Pheu Thai’s 24.57% and PPRP’s 23.15%. This only translated into 6/28 seats (PT and PPRP each won 9 seats), but again, FFP was the only party in the top three in all constituencies.
*Note: The reason that FFP wins the most votes, but not the most seats in Bangkok and Greater Bangkok reflects the fact that when FFP wins it wins by a comfortable margin, but it also loses a lot of close races.
In the East, FFP’s showing was impressive. In Trat and Chantaburi it swept all four constituencies with 30% of the vote in both provinces. FFP also had strong showings in Chachoengsao, Chonburi, and Rayong where it picked up another 5 seats. The 9/26 seats FFP secured in this sub-region was just slightly less than PPRP’s 11/26. In terms of overall vote share, FFP came in second with 24.10% compared to PPRP’s 31.86%.
Taken together, these three areas represent the core of FFP’s support base (Figure 2). All total took 21.21% of the vote compared to PPRP’s 26.90%, and 29.57% of the seats to PPRP’s 38.09%.
Figure 2. FFP Seat Victories (orange) in the Heartlands (Bangkok, Greater Bangkok, and the East)
Source: Author’s Own Creation
North- and West-Central Sub-Regions
In the rest of the Central region FFP did poorly. In the North-Central subregion they won just 16.31% of the vote and none of the 20 seats. They still placed in the top three 16/20 times, but in general these contests were much less competitive than in other regions. For example, in Suphan Buri, Chart Thai Pattana won an average of 52.7% of the vote. In the West, FFP fared equally poorly, with zero seats and just 16.83% of the vote. They placed in the top three in just 10/16 contests.
As Figure 3 shows, Future Forward was surprisingly popular in the North of Thailand, a traditional stronghold for Pheu Thai, and the home region of the Shinawatra clan (centered in Chiangmai). Some of this success can be attributed to the pre-electoral pact between Pheu Thai and Thai Raksa Chart, the latter of which was dissolved for nominating Princess Ubolrat as the party’s candidate for prime minister. Facing no competition from PT, FFP was able to sweep both of the seats in Phrae on 50.14% of the vote and a single seat in Phitsanulok. However, FFP’s two wins in Chiang Rai came head to head with Pheu Thai, even though it won by the slimmest of margins: 1.8 percentage points in constituency #1 and 0.3 percentage points in constituency #6.
Overall, in Lanna (Upper North), FFP came second with 23.84% of the vote, slightly higher than Palang Pracharat’s 22.52%, but considerably lower than PT’s 37.68%. Their success in Lanna was higher than in the Lower North where they won just 14.68% of the vote and zero seats. Across the entire Northern region, FFP’s support translated into just 5/64 seats, with only two of those occurring in constituencies where PT was also on the ballot.
Figure 3. FFP Seat Victories (orange) in the North
Source: Author’s Own Creation
The South and Northeast
FFP got just 14.14% of the vote in the Northeast and 11.12% of the vote in the South. They failed to capture any seats in these regions, save for a single seat in Khon Kaen’s Constituency 1, where they handily beat both PT and PPRP.
In short, FFP has emerged as a significant player in Thailand politics. While its appeal outside of Thailand’s central heartland is limited to the Upper North, in and around Bangkok it is a force to be reckoned with. This surprising electoral performance has combined with the party’s staunchly anti-military stance and the personal popularity of its leader to make it a clear threat to the ruling junta. For more details on the threat FFP poses, see our recent article in the Washington Post.