Thailand is entering the final stretch before Thai people go to the polls for the general election in which they elect Members of Parliament across the country on May 14th.
The country is amidst intense maneuvering of political parties from two sides, the conservative camp typically referred to the former ruling coalition under the leadership of the “Three Brothers”: Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prawit Wongsuwan, and Anupong Paochinda, and the liberal camp that calls itself pro-democracy led by the Pheu Thai Party under the leadership of Paethongtarn Shinawatra, the youngest daughter of Thaksin Shinawatra, the former Prime Minister who still wields influence in Thai politics, even though he has been living in exile for many years, and the Future Forward Party under the leadership of Pita Limjaroenrat, who has gained immense popularity among the younger generation and is currently ranked number one in almost every political poll.
This election is viewed as a crucial turning point for Thailand after the Three Brothers led by Gen Prayut overthrew the government of Yingluck Shinawatra, the country’s first female Prime Minister, in 2014, and has been in office ever since.
And even though Thailand held a general election back in 2019, it was perceived as a power succession of the Three Brothers as many viewed the newly-drafted constitution that gives the hand-picked Senate the power to pick a premier unfair and totally in favor of the conservative camp.
But unlike this election, with the awakening of the younger generation who continuously call for democracy and equality, it appears that this election poses a much harder challenge for the ruling power.
The intense fighting between the two sides has drawn attention from several international media outlets to the country.
The majority of them believe that the Pheu Thai Party has a high chance of wining and dominating the most seats in parliament, as it has done so in almost every past election. However, it is unlikely for the party to win a landslide victory as it has claimed, as the “Youth Power” mostly favors the Move Forward Party, according to several surveys.
However, Pheu Thai may be able to avoid this situation by collaborating with a party that has connections to the conservative camp, but this reconciliation may also dissatisfy their supporters. Not to mention the group of young people who came out to protest in 2020, Foreign Policy stated.
Another challenge for Pheu Thai is the hand-joining with the Move Forward Party.
The latter advocates for controversial policies in some circles such as the reform of the lese majeste law. Such a partnership could potentially jeopardize the political fortunes of both parties. On the other hand, forming an alliance with military-aligned parties could also harm Pheu Thai’s popularity and risk losing support, Foreign Policy stated.
Kyodo News reports that the election also serve as a litmus test for whether or not ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra will be able to return home to Thailand and serve his prison sentence in exchange for being with his family. As of now, his sentence stands at around 10 years and some of his cases are still pending.
The ex-premier, although claiming he only wants to return to care for his latest grandchild, will very likely play a significant role in how the new government will run the country if Pheu Thai wins, Kyodo News stated.
Another analysis from Channel News Asia suggests that Thailand’s election is still caught in the vicious cycle of struggle between the elected government and the military.
Although Pheu Thai is likely to win, it is still too early to predict who will be the next premier since the 250-member Senate handpicked under the 2017 Constitution still has the power to vote for the prime minister.
It is also possible that the Bhumjai Thai Party, the second-largest political party in the conservative camp, could have an important role in determining the next government, Channel News Asia stated.
Ultimately, deep social divisions and regional disparities in Thailand will continue to contribute to the uncertainty of Thai politics.