1684071507 Thailand braces for election results amid battle of bitter opponents

Thailand braces for election results amid battle of bitter opponents – Portal

  • Opposition parties assumed they would win most of the seats
  • Counting of votes in progress
  • Polling panel predicts 80% turnout
  • The election will see a new fight between the populist party and the conservatives

BANGKOK, May 14 (Portal) – Thailand was expected to turn in a record number of voters on Sunday in an election likely to see big gains for opposition forces.

The counting of the votes began after the polling stations closed. The Electoral Commission is expected to announce the preliminary results at 22:00 (15:00 GMT). A live count by the polling station and a parallel unofficial count were already underway.

The Electoral Commission had previously forecast a turnout of 80% of Thailand’s 52 million eligible voters.

Voters were faced with a choice between progressive opposition parties – one with a knack for electoral victories – and ruling coalition parties allied with royalist generals looking to preserve the status quo after nine years of government led or backed by the army.

Opinion polls suggest that opposition parties Pheu Thai and Move Forward will win the most seats, but there is no guarantee either will govern as the military enacted parliamentary rules supporting its after the 2014 coup turned out in favor.

“I want the election result to be what I hoped it would be because I want the country to move forward without any generational fighting,” Bangkok entrepreneur Onesuwat Chakrabundhu, 62, said, dismissing it to say which party he had chosen.

Elsewhere in the capital, most of the ruling party’s prime ministerial candidates and opposition groups cast their ballots, including incumbent Prayuth Chan-ocha and Paetongtarn Shinawatra of the Pheu Thai party.

“People need change,” Paetongtarn said after voting, expressing “great hopes” for a landslide victory won by Pheu Thai and its previous incarnation in 2011 and 2005, one of the movement’s five electoral victories.

The competition once again pits the Pheu Thai movement’s driving force, the billionaire Shinawatra family, against a combination of old money, the military and conservatives who wield influence over key institutions that toppled three of the populist movement’s four governments.

The seeds of conflict were sown in 2001 when Thaksin Shinawatra, a brazen upstart capitalist, was swept to power with a pro-poor, pro-business platform that energized disenfranchised landmasses and challenged clientele networks, which left him in conflict with Thailand’s established elite.

Thaksin’s urban middle-class critics viewed him as a corrupt demagogue who abused his position to build his own power base and further enrich his family. Mass protests erupted in Bangkok during his second term.

Parliamentary elections in Thailand

[1/14] Thailand’s acting prime minister and United Thai Nation Party (Ruam Thai Sang Chart Party) prime ministerial candidate Prayut Chan-ocha casts his ballot for the general election at a polling station in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 14, 2023. Portal/Athit Perawongmetha


In 2006, the military overthrew Thaksin, who fled into exile. His sister Yingluck’s government suffered the same fate eight years later. Now his daughter Paetongtarn, 36, a political novice, has taken over.

The populist approach of Pheu Thai and its predecessors has been so successful that rival forces that once derided it as vote-buying – the military-backed Palang Pracharat and Prayut’s United Thai Nation – are now pursuing strikingly similar strategies.

Prayut, a general who overthrew the last Pheu Thai government in the 2014 coup and has been in power ever since, advocates for continuity and is trying to woo middle-class conservative voters fed up with street protests and political unrest.

“Today is election day to show what a democratic system should be like,” he said at a polling station.

Some analysts argue the struggle for power in Thailand is more than a grudge between the polarizing Shinawatra clan and its influential rivals, with signs of generational change and a desire for a more progressive government.

Move Forward, led by 42-year-old Harvard graduate Pita Limjaroenrat, has seen a late-stage rebound.

She is counting on young people, including 3.3 million eligible first-time voters, to support her plans to dismantle monopolies, weaken the political role of the military and amend a tough law against insults to the monarchy, which critics say serves to discourage dissent to suppress.

“I’m glad we went that route and people can say what they want to say,” Pita said after casting his vote.

“Hopefully the whole country will respect the results and the will of the people.”

($1 = 33.85 baht)

Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; writing from Martin Petty; Edited by William Mallard

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