Thailand is heading to the new general election on May 14. It will be the second election under the 2017 constitution drafted after the 2014 coup, writes Purawich Watanasukh in Bangkok.
On March 20, 2023, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha announced the dissolution of the House of Representatives just three days before it completed its four-year term. Under the 2017 constitution, in the event of house dissolution, a new general election must be held within not less than 45 days and not more than 60 days. Later, the election date was scheduled for May 14. Here are the key parties and actors in this upcoming election:
Pheu Thai Party
Pheu Thai is the third iteration political party of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra which has won every election since 2001. A recent public opinion survey shows that Pheu Thai is still the most popular party in this upcoming election, receiving nearly 50 percent of the votes.
36-year-old Paethongtarn Shinawatra, the youngest daughter of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Image: Wikimedia Commons
A 36-year-old Paethongtarn Shinawatra, the youngest daughter of Thaksin, is expected to be nominated as one of the three Pheu Thai prime ministerial candidates. A hotelier and businesswoman, Paethongtarn was first introduced to the political stage in October 2021 as Pheu Thai’s chief advisor on innovation and political participation before being unveiled as head of the “Pheu Thai Family”. The recent poll shows she is the top favourite prime ministerial candidate in this upcoming election.
Potential prime ministerial candidate from the Pheu Thai Party, Srettha Thavisin. Image: Pheu Thai Party
Another expected prime ministerial candidate of Pheu Thai is 60-year-old Srettha Thavisin, the president and CEO of one of Thailand’s largest real estate developers, Sansiri. He is reportedly a close friend of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra. He officially joined the Pheu Thai rally in March 2023.
Move Forward Party
The Move Forward Party was formed to succeed the Future Forward Party after the Constitutional Court dissolved the latter in February 2020. Pita Limjaroenrat was named the party leader. A recent poll shows that the Move Forward Party is the second most popular party after Pheu Thai.
Pita Limjaroenrat. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Before entering politics, Pita was the CEO of Agrifood, a rice-bran oil business owned by his family at the age of 25. With his clean image, excellent educational background and success in business, 42-year-old Pita was voted “top choice” for prime minister by Bangkok voters in a survey last year. He announced his bid for prime minister in the next election in October 2021. The latest poll shows Pita is the second most popular prime ministerial candidate after Paethongtarn Shinawatra.
United Thai Nation Party
The United Thai Nation Party, or Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party, was formed in March 2022 to support Prayut Chan-o-Cha to return as prime minister after the next election. It was founded after speculation of conflict between two key junta leaders: Prayut Chan-o-cha and Prawit Wongsuwan. In January 2023, Prayut officially joined the party and is expected to be the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
A junta leader that staged a coup in 2014 and has been in power for more than eight years now, Prayut is struggling to retain his premiership. As the 2017 Constitution stipulates that a prime minister can serve no more than two consecutive terms (eight years), the Constitutional Court ruled on September 30, 2022, that Prayut’s term in office began on April 6, 2017, and will end in 2025. Despite being able to be in office for only two more years if reelected, 68-year-old Prayut declared his intention to be a prime minister again.
Palang Pracharath Party
Palang Pracharath Party was formed to back a military junta in the 2019 Election. In the last election, the party nominated Prayut Chan-o-cha as the prime ministerial candidate. This time the party is led by Prawit Wongsuwan, another key junta leader who is also expected to be the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
Prawit Wongsuwan. Image: Wikimedia Commons
Former army chief and also a key figure in the 2014 Coup, 77-year-old Prawit might not be much popular among the Thais due to his “luxury watch scandal”. However, his actual influence is being a ‘power broker’. Recently, Prawit made it clear that he is the best mediator to overcome the political conflicts between the Thai elites and people and to promote national reconciliation.
Bhumjaithai is the second largest coalition party in the 19-party Prayut coalition government. It is led by 56-year-old Anutin Charnvirakul, former president of one of Thailand’s largest construction companies Sino-Thai Engineering who served as deputy prime minister and minister of public health in the Prayut government. It attempts to present itself as the “third choice” in this election and as a potential power broker after the election. Also, Bhumjaithai has Newin Chidchob, who is widely known as the “kingmaker” of Thai politics, as its de facto leader.
Anutin Charnvirakul (second from left), along with Bhumjaithai Party’s key leaders, Saksayam Chidchob and Chada Thaiseth, had a meal with Prawit Wongsuwan before the dissolution of the House of Representatives amid the speculation of trying to form a coalition bloc. (Photo from Bangkok Post)
Jurin Laksanawisit (Photo from Dailynews)
The Democrat Party is Thailand’s oldest political party that still exists today. Its main support base is the conservative voters and southern Thailand. Also, it is the third-largest ruling coalition in Prayut’s 19-party coalition government. Its party leader 67-year-old Jurin Laksanawisit, who served as deputy prime minister and minister of commerce in the Prayut government, is expected to be nominated as the party’s prime ministerial candidate.
Source : Asia Media Centre