Thailand to hold poll on March 24

- Agence France-Presse, BANGKOK

Jan 24, 2019-

Thailand will hold a general election on March 24, authorities said on Wednesday, the first national poll since a 2014 coup knocked out the civilian government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

The military has since rewritten the constitution, muzzled all dissent and appointed junta allies across the bureaucracy in a bid to scratch the Shinawatra clan from the Thai political scene and embed its own influence in the country’s future. “March 24 will be the election day,” an Election Commission official told reporters, hours after the publication of a decree signed by King Maha Vajiralongkorn empowered the EC to give a date. 

Thailand’s history is pockmarked by coups, short-lived civilian governments and political crises.

The poll date is set to ignite campaign season in a country where colourful and boisterous political rallies have often tipped into deadly violence.

The office of Prayut, who is also prime minister, called for an “environment of orderliness, civility and unity”—although violence is unlikely among a public tired of political conflict.

An array of new parties—including some aligned to the military, others to the still powerful Shinawatra clan—have already begun meetings and recruitment as a blizzard of names are tossed up as likely future prime ministers.

Those include Prayut, who has spent months touring the country as he rebrands himself from a gruff man-in-Khaki to an avuncular civilian leader with a common touch.

Yet he is deeply unpopular among many Thais, who have wearied of his hectoring style as well as a junta accused of running down the economy and doing little to address graft, poor education standards and the kingdom’s chasmic social inequality. Even if the junta’s rivals do well in elections, any new civilian government is expected to be hamstrung by the military-scripted constitution.

Published: 24-01-2019 10:53

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