Thailand Elections: Opening the polls with the first candidate for Thaksin’s daughter

  • By Jonathan Head
  • Southeast Asia Correspondent

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Voting takes place at an outdoor polling station in Bangkok

Voting has begun in Thailand’s general elections, with the daughter of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as the front-runner.

The elections are described as a turning point for a country that has witnessed dozens of military coups in its recent history.

Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army chief who led the last coup in 2014, is seeking another term.

But he faces a strong challenge from two anti-military sides.

Voting began on Sunday at 8:00 am (01:00 GMT) in 95,000 polling stations across the country.

About 50 million people will cast their ballots to elect the 500 members of the lower house of Parliament – and about 2 million people vote early.

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Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha cast his ballot in Bangkok early Sunday

Leading the race is Pheu Thai (for Thais), led by Mr. Thaksin’s daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra.

The 36-year-old harnesses her father’s vast network of patronage while sticking to the populist message that has resonated in rural, low-income parts of the country.

“I think after eight years, people want better policies, better solutions for the country than just coups,” Ms Bytungtarn told the BBC in a recent interview.

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Pheu Thai prime ministerial candidate Paetongtarn Shinawatra is the daughter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The polls have also seen a rapid rise in Move Forward, led by Pita Limjarronrat, a 42-year-old former tech executive. Its young, progressive and ambitious candidates are campaigning on a simple but powerful message: Thailand needs change.

says Thitinan Pongsuderak, of Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Security and International Studies.

Meanwhile, Mr. Prayuth, 69, is trailing in opinion polls. He seized power from the government of Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, in 2014, after months of unrest.

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Party leader and prime ministerial candidate Peta Limjaronrat posed for a photo with his supporters after casting his vote

Thailand held elections in 2019, but results showed no clear party won a majority.

Weeks later, a pro-military party formed the government and named Mr Prayuth as its candidate for prime minister in a process the opposition said was unfair.

The following year, a controversial court ruling led to the dissolution of Future Forward, the previous iteration of Move Forward, which had performed strongly in the election thanks to the emotional support of younger voters.

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Thailand’s conservative, military-backed government is expected to face a strong challenge from the pro-democracy opposition

With nearly 70 parties contesting this election, and many large parties, it is highly unlikely that any party will gain an outright majority of seats in the House of Representatives.

But even if a party does not win a majority, or has a majority coalition, the political system inherited by the military-drafted 2017 constitution, and an array of other non-electoral powers, can prevent him from taking office.

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Two men dressed as Spider-Man provided some entertainment while people cast their votes

The constitution, which was written while Thailand was under military rule, created the appointed 250-seat Senate, which has the right to vote on the selection of the next prime minister and cabinet.

Since all senators are appointed by the coup leaders, they have always voted for the current government allied with the military, and never for the opposition.

So, technically, a party without the support of the Senate would need a supermajority of 376 out of 500 seats, which is an unattainable target.

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