Sunday, June 4, 2023

Thailand votes for opposition as favorite in election

Eight years after current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha seized power in a 2014 coup, voters in Thailand were voting on Sunday in an election seen as a key opportunity for change. Army.

The opposition Phu Thai party, led by Paetongtarn Shinawatra, was expected to win at least the largest number of MPs in the 500-seat lower house. After submitting his ballot, the candidate said that all votes were important to achieve change in Thailand, and he had high hopes for the final result.

But the leaders of the next government do not depend only on Sunday’s vote. The prime minister will be elected in July at a plenary session of the House of Representatives and the 250-seat Senate. The winner needs at least 376 votes, and it is unlikely that any one party will achieve this alone.

Pheu Thai was the party with the most votes in the previous elections in 2019, but its arch-rival, the military-backed Palang Prakarath Party, managed to form a coalition with Prayuth as prime minister. He won the unanimous support of the Senate, whose members share the military’s conservative mindset and were appointed by the military government following the Prayuth coup.

The president is running for re-election, although this year the military’s support is split between the two parties. Prayuth is supported by the United Thai Nation party. His deputy prime minister, Prawit Wongsuwan, is another former general, leader of Palang Pracharath.

Prayuth has been accused of mishandling the faltering economy, the pandemic and discouraging democratic reforms, which are especially important to young voters. He also encouraged people to vote when they go to their polling places.

“The increase in the youth vote and general awareness of the harm caused by military rule are important factors in determining the outcome of this election,” said Tyrell Haberkorn, a Thailand expert at the University of Wisconsin. “After nine years of military rule, the people are ready for change, even those who previously were not interested in stirring up the waters.”

The Pheu Thai millionaire joined a series of parties linked to populist Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted as prime minister by a military coup in 2006. Petongtarn Shinawatra is his daughter. The candidate’s aunt, Yingluck Shinawatra, who served as prime minister in 2011, was ousted in a coup led by Prayuth.

Phieu Thai and Patong Tarn, the most popular of the three registered prime ministerial candidates, are far ahead of the competition in opinion polls. But there was no sign that the country’s military-backed ruling class would take him kindly.

“I think the conservative monarchy side, which defends the army, the monarchy, is up against the wall. Change is coming and they have to find a way to deal with it,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

That means Pheu Thai will have to be careful in choosing potential coalition partners after Sunday’s election.

The Progress Party is second in the polls and shares his aspiration to stop the military. But he has openly called for small reforms to the monarchy, unacceptable to most conservatives, who consider the institution sacrosanct, and intimidating to other potential coalition partners.

Many believe Pheu Thai should look in the other direction and seek an ally in the Palang Prakarath party and its leader Prayuth, which is less linked to the 2014 coup and Prayuth imposed hardliners.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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