Thailand’s progressive Move Forward Party (MFP) claimed victory in the country’s election today after a result that decimated military-backed parties that have ruled the kingdom for nearly a decade.

A stunning surge for the upstart MFP in Sunday’s ballot left it on course to be the biggest party, followed by its rival opposition — the Pheu Thai movement of billionaire ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

MFP leader Pita Limjaroenrat said he would seek to build a six-party coalition including Pheu Thai.

“I am Pita Limjaroenrat, the next prime minister of Thailand,” he told reporters at the MFP headquarters in Bangkok.

“We are ready to form the government,” he added, vowing to be a “prime minister for all”.

The 42-year-old said he had called Paetongtarn Shinawatra, Pheu Thai’s lead candidate to be prime minister, to congratulate her on her campaign and invite her to join the coalition.

Thais turned out in record numbers to deliver a brutal verdict on former coup leader Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, blamed for economic stagnation and a crackdown on rights.

Between them, MFP and Pheu Thai are expected to take 292 out of 500 seats in the lower house, with the two main army-allied parties mustering just 76 seats in total.

But in a kingdom where coups and court orders have often trumped the ballot box, there are fears that the result may yet be thwarted.

MFP has vowed to reform the country’s strict lese-majeste laws, putting it on course for a collision with the powerful royalist-military establishment. — AFP

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