Thaksin Daughter Says She's Confident of Landslide Thai Election Win for Her Party

  • In World
  • 2023-01-29 04:42:47Z
  • By Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Paetongtarn Shinawatra, bidding to follow in the footsteps of her father and aunt in becoming Thai prime minister, is confident her party can achieve a landslide victory at the next elections with better policies to ease the burden of voters.

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The 36-year-old daughter of Thaksin Shinawatra is widely seen as the Pheu Thai opposition party's top potential candidate for the premiership, alongside property tycoon Srettha Thavisin. She has been leading her party's outreach program ahead of elections slated for May and said she's "100% ready" to be one of the party's three nominees.

"Right now the country needs to be fixed, it needs better policies and people need to have a better life," Paetongtarn said in an interview while campaigning in the northeastern province of Nong Khai on Saturday. "They have suffered for eight years and I think they have suffered long enough. Our party is ready and is capable of helping people."

The Shinawatra clan's dominance of Thai politics has helped Paetongtarn emerge as the most popular choice for prime minister in recent surveys. Opinion polls are also showing Pheu Thai as the party likely to win the most seats in the next elections.

Paetongtarn said widespread public discontent stemming from high cost of living and household debt will power her Pheu Thai party's return to power after eight years of a military-backed government led by Prayuth Chan-Ocha.

Pheu Thai, which won the largest number of seats in 2019 elections only to be thwarted by a coalition of parties led by the military-backed Palang Pracharath, is wooing voters with a pledge to raise minimum wages by 70% and increase crop prices while slashing energy costs.

It has also promised to lift economic growth rate to 5% annually and widen the nation's healthcare coverage. Thailand has had an uneven economic recovery from the pandemic, with small and medium enterprises and some tourism businesses still trying to rebound.

Prayuth, who first seized power in 2014 by ousting Thaksin's sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, has struggled to tackle inflationary pressures and near-record levels of household debt. Farmers are also agitated about declining prices of crops such as palm oil and rubber.

Parties affiliated with the Shinawatra clan have won the most seats in every Thai general election over the past two decades with farmers forming its core support base. The parties had introduced crop price support measures and insurance plans for farmers in the past that's helped it remain popular among voters.

Thaksin, who now lives in exile in Dubai, is a polarizing figure with his supporters in the past often clashing with backers of royalist military establishment. Paetongtarn believes the country has largely moved on from such divisive politics.

"Right now it's about people wanting to make this country a better place," she said. "We are the real hope for them."

Though Paetongtarn is confident of Pheu Thai securing a landslide, the path to forming a government is far from guaranteed.

Prayuth is maneuvering to stay in power by joining a new party after the ruling Palang Pracharath party - which successfully backed his bid for the job in 2019 - picked its leader and Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan as its sole nominee. He is counting on the support of the 250-member Senate, stacked with allies from the military establishment, who can vote in a prime minister's election until 2024.

Prayuth was also on the campaign trail on Saturday in the southern Chumporn province, the first with his new party. He told supporters his government has done more for Thailand than any of its predecessors and promised to go further if he returns to power. "I'll continue my work to the best of my abilities, if I get the chance," he said.

For now, Paetongtarn says she and her party are "100% confident" about winning enough seats to form a government of its own without the need to form a coalition.

"We are aiming for the landslide and we are very positive about that," she said.

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