Thailand: PM won’t call poll without a fight

  • There seems to be no doubt among political observers about the regime’s political ambitions, especially given Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha’s recent penchant for taking his cabinet on the road. His trips to the countryside can only mean one thing: He wants to return to power after the polls.
  • But what has caught their attention are his choice of provinces and the meet-and-greets with veteran politicians in the constituencies he sets foot in. The prime minister has been to the political strongholds of previous heavyweight parties, in Suphan Buri, Nakhon Pathom and Sukhothai.
  • Chanthaburi and Trat are the latest additions and the regime leader has been welcomed by veterans from the Democrat Party and the Phalang Chon Party which is known to have extensive political clout in the eastern region.
  • Virot Ali, a political scientist at Thammasat University, pointed out that what is happening clearly signals the regime’s plan to keep Gen Prayut in power. “If the government didn’t have anything up its sleeve and wanted to know about the people’s problems, it would have visited these provinces from the beginning. According to Mr Virot, the prime minister’s visits to the provinces intensified after he declared in early Jan 18 that he was no longer a soldier, but now a politician.
  • The academic saw this move as an attempt by the regime to recruit political allies from both the traditional and the new parties and mobilise old-time players who retain an interest in political power.
  • A source in the Pheu Thai Party said the regime’s choices of provinces to visit indicate that a campaign is under way to sway some politicians from the established parties with offers of plum roles in the next government.
  • The source said the regime cannot rely entirely on the Senate it will soon appoint and it needs to ensure adequate support from the House to maintain political stability after the general election.
  • The regime will face a different political dynamic if it returns to power with the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties working as the opposition, the source said, adding this is probably why the elections are being pushed back.
  • The Pheu Thai Party is keeping tabs on its members and allies and is confident that most will remain loyal. However, Ubon Ratchathani and Loei are among areas believed to be susceptible to a swoop by the regime.

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