Will the former coup general remain in power or will the heiress of a rich politician dynasty take over? In any case, observers expect a high turnout.
The eagerly awaited parliamentary elections began on Sunday morning (local time) in the popular holiday destination of Thailand. 52 million eligible voters are called to the polls. The opposition has been ahead in polls for months – especially Pheu Thai with top candidate Paetongtarn Shinawatra. The 36-year-old, who became a mother for the second time just two weeks ago, is the heir to a rich dynasty of politicians. Most recently, however, the progressive move-forward party with top candidate Pita Limjaroenrat (42) had caught up. It scores particularly well with younger voters.
Nevertheless, the incumbent head of government and former coup general Prayut Chan-o-cha could remain in power. Because a constitutional amendment introduced after the military coup of 2014 provides that 250 unelected senators decide who becomes prime minister together with the 500 newly elected MPs. These were appointed by the military in 2018 and are believed to be loyal to Prayut. Should he lose, he would withdraw from politics, Prayut declared a few days before the election.
For weeks there has been speculation about possible coalitions that would enable the opposition to achieve a majority of 376 votes without the senators. According to political observers, the country could face renewed protests if the election of the head of government does not ultimately reflect the will of the voters. It was the “day of decision” between “radical change and maintaining the status quo,” wrote the Bangkok Post newspaper on Sunday.
Army Chief Narongpan Jittkaewtae tried to allay fears of a possible new military coup in the course of the election. There will be no further military coup under his leadership, people should remove the term from their vocabulary, he said. There have been more than a dozen coups in the kingdom since the 1930s.
Observers expected a high turnout. Polling stations were scheduled to close at 5:00 p.m. (12:00 p.m. CEST). Unofficial results could be known as early as late evening (local time). It could be days before an official result is available.
I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.