BANGKOK (BLOOMBERG) - Thailand's Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha slipped to the second position in an opinion poll as the number of undecided voters shrunk amid speculation of an early general election.
Mr Prayut, the coup leader-turned-Premier, got 12.7 per cent of the votes in a March 10 to 15 survey by the National Institute of Development Administration, known as Nida.
That is down from 16.9 per cent in December and his lowest rating in the four quarterly surveys done by the institute, it said a statement on Sunday (March 27).
Mr Pita Limjaroenrat, a leader of the opposition Move Forward Party, led the list with 13.4 per cent of the popularity vote.
The number of undecided participants stood at 27.6 per cent, down from 36.5 per cent in December.
Ms Paetongtarn Shinawatra, daughter of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and a leader of the largest opposition party Pheu Thai; Ms Sudarat Keyuraphan, a former candidate for prime minister; and Mr Sereepisuth Temeeyaves of the Seri Ruam Thai Party were among the other preferred candidates in the Nida survey.
Thai political parties have stepped up campaigns and outreach programmes in recent months in anticipation that the general elections may be called before the end of Mr Prayut's four-year term in March next year.
That is because public resentment is swelling against his administration's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and soaring inflation.
Mr Prayut's government is committed to ensuring the benefit of all sections of the society, through various measures, to lessen the impact of high energy prices stemming from the Russian war in Ukraine and the pandemic, spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana said in a statement on Sunday.
The nation's fiscal position is stable and strong, he said, adding that the government is ready to take additional steps to contain inflation.
An early test of the popularity of various political parties may come from the Bangkok gubernatorial elections, the first since 2013, to be held on May 22.
Pheu Thai, a party linked to Thaksin, was the choice of 25.9 per cent of the respondents, with Move Forward Party coming second with 16.2 per cent and the Democratic Party polling 7.97 per cent.
Palang Pracharath, the largest party in Mr Prayut's coalition government, was fifth with 7.03 per cent.
Still, 28.8 per cent of the survey participants were neutral, or did not support any political party, according to Nida's nationwide survey of 2,020 people aged 18 and above. The poll has a margin of error of 3 per cent, Nida said.