Thai PM dissolves parliament, calls election

BANGKOK       -     Thai Prime Minister Prayut ChanO-Cha dissolved the country’s parliament on Monday, setting up a general election in May as the former coup leader seeks to extend army-backed rule.

The vote pits unpopular former army chief Prayut, who came to power in a 2014 putsch, against the daughter of billionaire former PM Thaksin Shinawatra, whose shadow still looms over the kingdom’s political scene despite more than a decade in exile. The main opposition Pheu Thai group, fronted by Paetongtarn Shinawatra, is polling strongly but Thailand’s junta-scripted 2017 constitution will make it hard for the party to secure the top job.

A statement in the official Royal Gazette published on Monday announced the dissolution, and the Election Commission will confirm the date of the poll later, with May 7 or 14 tipped as the most likely.

The election is the second since the 2014 coup and the first since the country was rocked by massive youth-led pro-democracy protests in Bangkok in 2020. Unofficial campaigning has been under way for weeks, with rising living costs and the kingdom’s sluggish recovery from the pandemic high on the agenda. The 68-year-old Prayut, who cemented his rule in a controversial election in 2019, has demonstrated a longevity that is rare in Thai politics.

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