The men and woman with best odds of becoming Thai PM

Analysts believe that either (from left to right) Prayut Chan-o-cha, Sudarat Keyuraphan, Anutin Charnvirakul, Thanathorn Jungrungreangkit or Abhisit Vejjajiva, will be Thailand's next prime minister following the elections.
Analysts believe that either (from left to right) Prayut Chan-o-cha, Sudarat Keyuraphan, Anutin Charnvirakul, Thanathorn Jungrungreangkit or Abhisit Vejjajiva, will be Thailand's next prime minister following the elections.PHOTOS: AFP, ST FILE, FUTURE FORWARD PARTY

The 68 candidates for prime minister in Thailand's upcoming election on March 24 have diverse platforms and backgrounds.

But analysts believe these figures have the best chance of winning.

PRAYUT CHAN-O-CHA

From stern coup leader to prime ministerial candidate mugging for the camera, General Prayut has rebranded himself as a man of the people in the run-up to the election.

Nicknamed "Tu", the 65-year-old has an Instagram account with photos of him cooking and riding a train with smiling children.

He has also penned saccharine ballads about democracy, including one called "New Day".

 

Now standing for the Phalang Pracharat Party, the grumpy general is popular with arch-royalists and a Bangkok-based elite, using the years since the coup to create an unelected Upper House that could tip the scales his way when Parliament votes for prime minister.

SUDARAT KEYURAPHAN

Dr Sudarat is the top candidate for the Pheu Thai party, the political juggernaut linked to self-exiled former premier Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck, who was ousted in the 2014 coup.

 

The 57-year-old helped found the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai ("Thais love Thais") party alongside billionaire Thaksin, and she served in his Cabinet after his 2001 and 2005 election wins. Each party can nominate up to three PM candidates. Pheu Thai's second choice, Mr Chadchart Sittipunt, is a former transport minister who secured Internet fame five years ago with a viral photo of him in workout gear, inspiring memes as the "strongest man on earth".

But neither has the star charisma and draw of the Shinawatras.

ANUTIN CHARNVIRAKUL

The fantastically wealthy son of a construction tycoon, Mr Anutin is a fixture of the political scene and a former official under Thaksin.

Analysts say his Bhumjaithai Party, which is popular in the north-east and finished third in the last vote in 2011, could leverage its appeal as a coalition partner in the next government.

 

Mr Anutin, 52, shook up the political scene this year when his party put up street banners featuring marijuana leaves, touting the plant's economic benefits for farmers after Thailand legalised cannabis for medical use last year.

THANATHORN JUANGROONGRUANGKIT

Photogenic, active on social media, and a lover of extreme sports, 40-year-old Thanathorn portrays himself as a new choice bridging Thailand's old political divides.

 

The Future Forward Party candidate has cultivated a rock star appeal among millennials, drawing crowds of adoring, youthful fans who jostle for selfies and call him "Daddy".

Founded last year, Future Forward could capitalise on the more than seven million first-time eligible voters aged 18 to 25.

ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA

The British-born, Oxford-educated fervent Newcastle United fan is head of the Democrat Party, which draws support from Bangkok and parts of the south.

The polished 54-year-old was appointed premier in 2008 via a parliamentary vote but struggled for legitimacy.

 
 

His short-lived administration was tarred by a violent crackdown in 2010 that left some 99 dead.

Mr Abhisit was criticised for failing to denounce the junta that took power in 2014.

But in a more recent interview, he said he would not support Gen Prayut for prime minister.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 22, 2019, with the headline 'The men and woman with best odds of becoming Thai PM'. Print Edition | Subscribe