Thailand to hold general election on May 14

Rallies for the Thai election have already been under way for months, but parties are now ratcheting up efforts. PHOTO: AFP

BANGKOK – Thailand will hold elections on May 14, the national poll body said on Tuesday, a day after the Parliament was dissolved.

The announcement came as parties step up campaigning for a nationwide contest for the support of about 52 million eligible voters.

The race is shaping up to be a battle between a pro-military conservative grouping, led by the incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, against the largest opposition Pheu Thai party, headed by the billionaire Shinawatra family.

Early voting will take place on May 7, while candidate registration, including for party nominees for prime minister, will take place in early April, said Election Commission secretary-general Sawaeng Boonmee at a news conference. 

The commission will endorse at least 95 per cent of votes within 60 days after the poll, he said.

“We would like everyone to respect the rules... for smooth elections,” he said.

Political rallies have already been under way for months, but parties are now ratcheting up efforts.

Pheu Thai is expected to hold events daily across Thailand featuring the daughter of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Ms Paetongtarn Shinawatra, who has topped opinion polls as a potential candidate for premier.

Mr Prayut, who is running for re-election with the United Thai Nation Party, told reporters earlier on Tuesday that his Cabinet was still governing the country. 

The upcoming election could inject as much as 120 billion baht (S$4.68 billion) into the economy as political parties step up their campaigns for votes, a commerce university said on Tuesday. 

“This election is likely to see a fierce competition and intense campaigns. Money will spread very quickly, going into every constituency,” Dr Thanavath Phonvichai, president of the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, told a briefing. 

South-east Asia’s second-largest economy is expected to grow 3 per cent to 4 per cent in 2023, factoring in a boost of 0.5 to 0.7 of a percentage point from spending of 100 billion to 120 billion baht expected during April and May, he said.

While the tourism sector is driving the economy, political stability after the election will also be key, he added. 

The university’s survey showed the business sector is worried about negative impacts on the economy if the election creates conflict and instability instead, Dr Thanavath said. 

“Concerns over the forming of a new government will put both domestic and foreign investors in wait-and-see mode in the second and third quarters,” he said.

The private sector urges a caretaker government to continue budget disbursements to support the economy until the next government is formed, he added.  REUTERS

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