6 June 2024

Major political parties are now making last-ditch efforts to win as many votes as possible with only days to go before the general election on Sunday.

No matter what pollsters are saying, each of them refuses to surrender in their bid to win power at the May 14 national vote. The main contenders in the race are the Pheu Thai and Move Forward parties of the pro-democracy camp and the United Thai Nation, Democrat, Bhumjaithai and Palang Pracharath parties from the conservative camp.

Up for grabs on Sunday are a total of 500 MP seats in both the party-list and constituency ballots.

“I expect big parties to pull out any trump cards they hold at their last big rallies on May 12,” said Stithorn Thananitichot, director of the Office of Innovation for Democracy at King Prajadhipok’s Institute.

Pheu Thai drums up landslide victory

For the last leg of its campaign, Thailand’s biggest political party Pheu Thai has chosen to highlight its message, “Without a landslide victory for us, you will be stuck with the 3Ps for four more years”.

The 3Ps refers to Prime Minister and 2014 coup leader General Prayut Chan-o-cha, PM candidate for the United Thai Nation Party; Deputy Prime Minister and Palang Pracharath leader General Prawit Wongsuwan; and Interior Minister General Anupong “Pok” Paochinda.

Pheu Thai is so focused on a landslide victory that it produced infographics detailing two scenarios.

The first scenario shows Pheu Thai sweeping to victory with 310 MPs in its pocket. In that case, it would be able to woo smaller parties to gain the 376 MPs needed to vote for a PM without the intervention of the 250 senators. If Pheu Thai is successful in that aim, the 3Ps will be kicked out of government.

The second scenario shows Pheu Thai winning 200 MPs. In this case, it would have trouble finding coalition partners despite emerging as the biggest political party. Also, the 250 senators – who were handpicked by the junta under the 3Ps – may block Pheu Thai’s prime ministerial candidate.

With solid election policies and a huge base of supporters, Pheu Thai is convinced it will win the May 14 election. It is just not sure whether its winning margin will be big enough to form the next government. In the 2019 election, it won the most seats but failed to secure the landslide victory that would have enabled it to form the government.

“We can’t wait for four more years. We believe people want to be sure that our country can really move ahead,” said Srettha Thavisin, one of Pheu Thai’s three prime ministerial candidates.

Fellow Pheu Thai PM candidate Paetongtarn Shinawatra said, “We are ready to work with the Move Forward Party but definitely not with the United Thai Nation and Palang Pracharath parties.”

Her vow should help woo support from voters who oppose military intervention in politics.

Meanwhile, Paetongtarn’s father Thaksin Shinawatra once again declared his desire to return to Thailand after living in self-imposed exile for the last 15 years. His plea looks set to earn Pheu Thai backing from even more voters; the billionaire former PM remains popular among grassroots Thais.

The Pheu Thai Party’s last big rally will take place at IMPACT Arena Muang Thong Thani under the slogan “Give Pheu Thai a Landslide Victory to Get Immediate Change”.

44 years of political development in Thailand

Move Forward: ‘Time to change Thailand’

The Move Forward Party, which is riding a wave of popularity even in the South where the Democrat Party has long been dominant, is promoting its key message “change for Thailand”. During the final week of election campaigning, it is challenging voters to dream of changing Thailand – and have the courage to chase that dream.

Senior Move Forward figures are conducting a nationwide campaign tour that will conclude with a rally in front of Government House.

“We believe voters are ready to vote with hope, not fear, and for the future, not the past,” the party’s secretary-general Chaithawat Tulathon said.

Stithorn said Move Forward is eating into Pheu Thai’s support base because the latter has shied away from debates on TV and other major media platforms. Move Forward candidates and politicians have a reputation as talented debaters.

The Move Forward Party will also hold a large rally on May 12, choosing the Bangkok Youth Center’s Keelawes 1 building to present their key message of “We are the Ultimate Answer for the Whole Nation.”

United Thai Nation: Strongest in conservative camp

Stithorn said the United Thai Nation Party is now fighting on ideological grounds against pro-democracy parties, using various tactics including debates, online drives, and on-the-ground campaigns.

Recently, it even rolled out an attack video titled “Thailand is not the same”. Apparently targeting the older generation, the video asks its audience whether they want their homeland to change for the worse.

“The United Thai Nation Party will get support from voters who disagree with the Move Forward Party,” Stithorn said.

He estimates that some 40 million people will vote on Sunday. Stithorn reckons about 16 million will vote for conservative parties, while 20 million will opt for pro-democracy parties.

United Thai Nation will stage its final large rally at the King Taksin Statue in Bangkok, where supporters can expect to see Prayut extolled as a protector of the three pillars of nation, religion and monarchy.

Palang Pracharath: ‘Step out of crisis’

As well as promoting policies to improve life in Thailand’s poorest region, the Northeast, the Palang Pracharath Party is campaigning under the slogan “Step Out of Crisis”. The message to voters is that only Palang Pracharath can prevent the country from falling back into political division and conflict.

Its big pre-election rally will be held at the Bangkok Youth Center’s Keelawes 2 building on May 12.

Reading the story of Thailand’s election in campaign posters

Bhumjaithai Party: Don’t mention marijuana

While the Bhumjaithai Party proudly touted legalization of marijuana as the core plank of its 2019 election campaign, it is playing down the policy ahead of Sunday’s national vote. Effective legalization of recreational marijuana has met with fierce opposition, spearheaded by former soapy massage tycoon and MP turned whistleblower Chuwit Kamolvisit.

Unsurprisingly, Bhumjaithai appears to be evading controversy over its cannabis policy for now. Bhumjathai leader Anutin Charnvirakul has said he’s open to talks with any political parties but would make retaining cannabis’s legal status a condition of joining the next government.

Democrat Party: Striving to retain support in the South

Democrat leader Jurin Laksanawisit recently admitted that political competition in the South – which has long been his party’s stronghold – is turning fierce.

“We can only hope that people will remember that the Democrat Party has stood by people, especially those in the South, throughout the past 77 years, including in difficult times,” Jurin said.

Chuan Leekpai, a former PM and ex-leader of the Democrats, has joined party campaigning and urged all members to fight till the end.

The Democrat Party will hold a big rally in the Lan Khon Muang Town Square on Friday in a last-ditch effort to win more votes. While the Democrat Party used to be hugely popular among city people, it did not earn a single MP seat in the capital in the 2019 election.

By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk