11 July 2024

There is a strong possibility that Prayut Chan-o-cha could see himself sidelined in the upcoming election, said a professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University, Dr. Siripan Nongsuan Sawasdee in a news article by Reuters.

Dr. Siripan referred back to 2019 election that no matter how people voted, it was quite certain that Prayut will be the prime minister.

Thailand has been identified as a country exhibiting characteristics of “electoral authoritarianism” owing to the 2019 election in which military leaders who staged the 2014 coup implemented their own electoral system and handed the reins of power over to former army chief Prayut, who has stayed the prime minister since. As a result, Thailand could not be classified as a fully democratic regime in the last election, said the professor.

“It appears that factors such as the global economic downturn, the pandemic, and the government’s unsatisfactory performance have caused voters to distance themselves further from the military-supported party,” she explained.

The article also quoted an associate professor of political science at Thammasat University, Dr. Prajak Kongkirati, saying that the upcoming election presents a crucial opportunity to strengthen and consolidate Thai democracy, especially as Thailand has transitioned from a two-party system to a more diverse and complex multi-party system that accommodates a wide range of political ideologies.

“Another big change is the electoral system with the two ballots that favour the big party. So, in this case, the Pheu Thai party, which is the largest party in Thailand, will gain a larger number of seats,” he explained.

Both political experts say it is now more challenging for the Pheu Thai party to secure a landslide victory given the shift in the political landscape which has undergone significant changes since the 2019 election, particularly with the emergence of the Future Forward party, which is now Move Forward party.

According to Dr. Prajak, Thailand has also observed a broader spectrum of right-wing parties including the Palang Pracharath Party, the United Thai Nation (which originated from Palang Pracharat), the Bhumjaithai Party, and the Democrat Party, with left-right parties on both sides competing not just against each other, but also within their own camp.

Dr. Prajak said it would be challenging to foresee the future of a coalition government due to the current constitution established by the coup leaders.

Both political experts emphasised that having a free and fair election in Thailand would be crucial for the establishment of a stable democratic government.

Failure to do so could result in another political crisis, they said.

Thailand has been dubbed as a “land of coups” due to its history of experiencing 13 coups in modern times, said Dr. Prajak. Thus, when discussing Thai politics, the possibility of another coup cannot be dismissed.

“I don’t think Thailand can afford to be another Myanmar in this region. The whole world is watching this election,” he said.