The shock of last Friday’s events have been deeply felt both within Thailand’s political elite and the public. The nomination of a Thai Princess, intervention of the Thai King and the decision by the election commission yesterday to recommend the dissolution of the new and growing Thai Raksa Chart Party has been watched carefully by the electorate. Common wisdom is that the events of the week have strengthened the position and appeal of current Prime Minister Prayut Chan ocha. However, a new poll shows strong support in Thailand’s poor Isan region for two of the key opposition parties Pheu Thai and Future Forward with 66% of the vote. This must put the pro junta political parties on guard. The poll is very good news for the ultra radical and progressive Future Forward Party which has also has a strong urban base in Bangkok.
They say a week is a long time in politics. In Thailand, this week has indeed seen such a week with the tumultuous events on Friday bringing about the nomination of a Thai Princess as Prime Minister, a robust intervention by the Thai King and a decision by the election commission yesterday to recommend the disbandment of the Thai Raksa Chart Party. Some have heralded the demise of the influence of Thaksin Shinawatra and his family in Thai politics as the dust settles on the affair. However, a new opinion poll from the Isan region shows this may be premature with two opposition parties sharing 66% of the vote. It also suggests that the radical and progressive Future Forward Party led by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit may be the biggest winner in this election.
In the aftermath of last Friday’s election shock which has led to the Thai Raksa Chart Party facing the real prospect of dissolution, Thai politics is coming to terms with the ongoing election campaign. Today the Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has revealed that Thailand’s current Prime Minister may be limited in his capacity to participate in election campaigning in the run up to March 24th. The Prime Minister accepted the nomination of the new Palang Pracharat Party as Prime Minister quietly on Friday last while the controversy over the nomination of Thailand’s Princess Ubolratana raged on all Thai media channels.
Thai PM must limit campaign activities in the general election under orders from the Election Commission
It has now emerged that the Election Commission had been exercised by the issue of his influence in the election while holding office after the Prime Minister formally acceptance the nomination on Friday. Under Thailand’s strict electoral laws, a Thai citizen who is not a member of a political party and one who holds political office may not participate in election campaigning. The prohibitions are contained in Section 70, Section 76 and Section 78 of the law governing the current election. The Deputy Prime Minister has revealed that the election commission has now made an order concerning the role and conduct of the Prime Minister and that this has been conveyed to him.
Prayut rejected caretaker role as PM
The Prime Minister, Prayut Chan ocha, at the onset of the election, quite deliberately rejected the idea that he remain as a caretaker Prime Minister when the election was called. This decision now means that he must operate under strict parameters when it comes to campaigning for the election until the March 24th poll takes place. A new Thai government is expected to be formed sometime in June through the democratic process now underway.
Pheu Thai and Future Forward parties have 66% of the vote in Isan according to opinion poll
The Palang Pracharat Party has announced an election campaign rally for Kanchanaburi for Friday next. The new party is pushing for votes in rural hinterlands with a campaign that promises a continuation of the current government policies including an extension of welfare support measures to assist those in debt and assistance to boost revenue for farmers. However the new political party, allied to the junta, did fare so well in an opinion poll carried out within the Isan region in Thailand’s northeast. The poll shows strong support for leading opposition Pheu Thai and the Future Forward parties with a whopping 66% share of the vote between them. Admittedly, this is the hinterland for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra but the strong showing of the ultra progressive Future Forward Party who propose radical opposition to the Thai junta must be ringing alarm bells. The Palang Pracharat Party which is also deliberately targeting Isan region, emerged with only 7.4% with the Democrat party managing just 3.9%.
Democrat Party leader calls for debate
Meanwhile the leader of the Democrat Party, Thailand’s oldest political party, Abhisit Vejjajiva has called for a formal debate between himself and the Prime Minister in the course of the election. He said that such a media event would help ‘showcase’ the different visions and policies for Thailand and so help voters make an informed decision. ‘People have the right to compare the candidates,’ he told the press.
Good news for radical and progressive Future Forward Party led by Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit
The new opinion poll from Isan must be good news for the opposition and in particular Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit and his Future Forward Party. It is evidence that the new, anti junta, progressive party is making inroads out of the urban Bangkok metropolitan area where it is also reported to be quite strong among younger voters. The survey sample was over 1,100 and was conducted in 20 of the 23 provinces in the Isan region. 40% of the sample were farmers and 35% had a minimal salary of less than ฿10,000 per month. Poverty emerged as the top priority in the poll. The Isan region is Thailand’s poorest and is believed to be the heartland of the red shirt faction in Thai politics. In the last effective election in 2011, it returned a large number of Pheu Thai MPs to help elect Yingluck Shinawatra as Prime Minister. Both ex Premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck are deeply loved figures in the region. The region has 116 seats in Parliament up for grabs in the general election.
Prime Minister ready to protect the country
The Thai Prime Minister declared his formal acceptance last Friday of the nomination put forward by the Palang Pracharat Party who nominated him days earlier as the party’s sole candidate for the post of Prime Minister in the election. The move came amidst the confusion and media coverage of the shock announcement that the Thai Raksa Chart Party, aligned with Thaksin Shinawatra, had nominated the much loved Thai Princess Ubolratana as its sole candidate for Prime Minister. Prayut said on the day that he had made his decision to accept the nomination on the basis of the party’s policies.
‘This decision was not easy, because it is such a critical period for the country,’ the Prime Minister noted. ‘I’ve been a soldier all my life and I’m ready to sacrifice my life to protect the country.’