BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s parliament was dissolved on Monday, paving the way for elections to be held in May. The race will showcase a long-running political battle between the billionaire Shinawatra family and a conservative pro-military establishment.
The next premier will be decided by the end of July at a bicameral sitting of the new legislature. Below are some of the likely contenders for prime minister.
The incumbent has led Thailand for nearly eight years since he ousted a civilian government in a 2014 coup while army chief.
He was elected prime minister in 2019 and if chosen again by lawmakers, he can only serve half of the four-year term as he will have reached the maximum eight years permitted.
Prayuth, 68, has been unpopular in opinion polls, with the latest putting him in third with 15.65% support. He is running with the new, conservative United Thai Nation Party.
The youngest child of the former, but still popular, premier Thaksin Shinawatra, Paetongtarn, 36, has consistently topped surveys, with a March poll putting her support at 38.2%.
She has been campaigning in the vote-rich rural strongholds of the main opposition Pheu Thai party, promising to bring back populist policies like nearly doubling the daily minimum wage to 600 baht ($17.61).
Best known by her nickname, “Ung Ing”, she announced in November that she is pregnant.
The 42-year-old is leader of the progressive opposition Move Forward party – the only one pushing for amendments to Thailand’s strict royal insult law that punishes offenders with up to 15 years in jail. Pita received the backing of 15% of respondents in the March opinion survey.
His other policies include promoting small businesses, curbing monopolies and ending military conscription. The party’s supporters are mostly younger voters.
A seasoned political dealmaker and current deputy premier, Prawit, 77, is a nominee for prime minister for the Palang Pracharat party following ally Prayuth’s departure. He is a staunch royalist from the same military clique as Prayuth, and served in his junta.
He has positioned himself as a candidate who can bridge the divide between conservatives and democratic forces.
Health Minister Anutin oversaw COVID-19 lockdowns, treatment and vaccine procurement and was criticized for calling it “just a flu”. He has been praised for restarting tourism through a vaccinated travel programme.
His Bhumjaithai Thai party, which controls about 50 seats in parliament successfully delivered on a campaign promise from 2019 to decriminalize and promote medical cannabis. However, that led to a rise in recreational use, upsetting conservatives and prompting Anutin, 56, to take a tougher stance against other drugs.
Jurin, 67, of the Democrat Party is seen as part of the conservative establishment. The party has lost support in recent years because of defections and Jurin aims to revitalise it as it competes for the traditional conservative vote in the south and Bangkok.
(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor, Martin Petty)