Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the youngest daughter of exiled former deposed Thai leader Thaksin Shinawatra and Pheu Thai Party's prime minister candidate, speaks to supporters during a general election campaign in Samut Prakan province, Thailand, 28 March 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/RUNGROJ YONGRIT

Thai opposition leads polls a month before elections as military shadow looms

Bangkok, Apr 20 (EFE).- The opposition parties of Thailand are leading pre-election surveys with at least 70 percent support less than a month before the general elections, set to be held on May 14, as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has ceded ground in recent weeks.

However, it is not enough to win the popular vote in Thailand to form government, as the lower house of the parliament also includes 250 members nominated by the former military junta along with the 500 elected ones.

Incumbent Thai Prime Minister and United Thai Nation Party’s prime ministerial candidate Prayut Chan-o-cha speaks to supporters during a general election campaign in Bangkok, Thailand, 07 April 2023. EFE-EPA FILE/RUNGROJ YONGRIT

Thus, the military is expected to play a decisive role in electing the next prime minister.

The upcoming elections – the second to be held since the 2014 military coup – will be marked by the tussle for power between parties allied to Prayut’s pro-military conservative movement and the opposition party Pheu Thai led by Paethongtarn Shinawatra, a member of the powerful and rich Shinawatra political clan.

According to a poll released on Sunday by the National Institute of Development Administration, a sizable majority of the 2,000 people surveyed between Apr. 3-7 said they would vote for Pheu Thai (47.2 percent) or another opposition party Move Forward (21.20 percent), showing a clear lead for the opposition.

The party headed by Prayut – the former military general and head of junta who was appointed prime minister after the 2019 elections – received just 10.8 percent support, slightly lower than the 11.75 percent backing it received in the previous survey.

The Democrat Party was the fourth most popular party with 4.75 percent support in the NIDA polls.

According to the poll, Shinawatra – the 36-year-old soon-to-be mother who is a new entrant to politics – is the most liked leader with 35.7 percent support, slightly lower than last month.

Reform oriented Move Forward’s leader Pita Limjaroenrat received 20.25 percent backing, gaining almost 5 percent from the previous month’s survey, while Prayut received just 13.6 percent support, down from 15.75 percent in the last poll.

This could be a historic opportunity for Paethongtarn – daughter of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra – to bring back to power a family which has won the highest number of seats in the parliament since the 2001 elections.

Thaksin (prime minister between 2001-2006) and later his sister Yingluck (2011-2014) were both ousted from power before the end of their terms through coups by the powerful military. The two leaders continue to live in exile.

Rights groups have warned that the upcoming elections were “deeply flawed” due to their framework and were being held under an atmosphere of fear.

“Governments around the world are not going to consider the next Thai government to be democratically elected unless the current government addresses the fundamental flaws in Thailand’s electoral process,” John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement, referring to the large number of parliamentary seats reserved for the military and state crackdown against dissidents. EFE