Thailand’s elections begin today, with Thaksin’s daughter as the frontrunner.
Thailand’s general election has begun, with the daughter of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra as the frontrunner.
The election has been described as a watershed moment for a country that has seen a dozen military takeovers in recent years.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, the army general who led the previous coup in 2014, is running for re-election.
He is, however, facing a stiff battle from two anti-military groups.
Pheu Thai (For Thais), led by Mr Thaksin’s daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, is leading the race. The 36-year-old is leveraging her father’s extensive patronage network while sticking to the populist rhetoric that has resonated with the country’s rural, low-income regions.
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Mr Thaksin, a telecoms billionaire, is popular with many lower-income Thais but is despised by the royalist elite. In 2006, he was deposed in a military coup after his opponents accused him of corruption. He has rejected the charges and has been living in exile in London and Dubai since 2008.
“I think that after eight years, the people want better politics, better solutions for the country than just coup d’etats,” Ms Paetongtarn told the BBC in a recent interview.
Move Forward, led by Pita Limjaroenrat, a 42-year-old former technology executive, has also been gaining ground in polls. Its youthful, progressive, and ambitious politicians have campaigned on a straightforward but strong message: Thailand must change.
“And the change isn’t actually about another coup. Because that is a regressive change. “It’s about reforming the military and the monarchy for a more democratic future with better economic performance,” says Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Chulalongkorn University’s Institute of Security and International Studies.