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World News

Thailand dissolves parliament ahead of May elections

BANGKOK — Thailand’s parliament was dissolved by government decree on Monday, paving the way for a general election in May that offers an opportunity to reduce the military’s influence in politics.

The dissolution, just days before the end of the four-year term of the House of Representatives, was initiated by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who is seeking a new term in elections due to be held on May 7 or 14. The date will be announced next week.

The election will pit the popular opposition Pheu Thai party, backed by billionaire populist Thaksin Shinawatra, against parties representing the conservative establishment and closely linked to the military.

Parties led and backed by Thaksin have won the most seats in every election since 2001, but have been stymied by military coups, adverse rulings by the conservative judiciary and election laws written to favor government-backed parties. ‘army.

Pheu Thai’s main candidate is Thaksin’s daughter, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, 36, who is widely favored in the opinion polls.

If elected, she would be the fourth member of the Shinawatra family to serve as prime minister in the past two decades. His father held office from 2001 to 2006 and Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra from 2011 to 2014. Both were overthrown in coups. Thaksin’s brother-in-law, Somchai Wongsawat, briefly held the post in 2008 before being removed from office by a court ruling dissolving the People’s Power Party, which was the name of Thaksin’s political movement in era.

Over 52 million of the country’s population of over 66 million are eligible to vote in 400 constituencies. Four hundred seats will be determined by a first-past-the-post ballot in each constituency. A separate party preference ballot will nominate the remaining 100 members of the House of Representatives from national party lists. The prime minister is chosen by vote in a combined session of the newly elected lower house and the 250-seat Senate, a conservative body whose members are appointed.

Prayuth, who will turn 69 on Tuesday, first assumed the top job after staging a military coup as army commander toppling Yingluck’s elected government in 2014. He did not not presented in the 2019 elections but was chosen Prime Minister by Parliament after the army. The Pracharath party has formed a coalition government.

This year, however, he faces the challenge of his longtime comrade-in-arms and deputy prime minister Prawit Wongsuwan, 77, who has been named Palang Pracharath’s new candidate for prime minister.

Prayuth joined the newly formed United Thai Nation party in January to become its candidate, even though a court ruled last year that he could only serve two more years under the constitution. The party is less experienced, raising questions about whether it can win the minimum 25 seats in the lower house to appoint Prayuth as prime minister.

Prayuth and Prawit both sounded wrong.

Prawit had indicated he would be willing to form a coalition government with Pheu Thai, a position that was virtually unthinkable for a military-linked candidate just a few years ago.

The top runners-up in the 2019 polls also have an important role to play as possible partners in any coalition government. Chief among them is the well-funded Bhumjaithai party, whose base is in the populous northeastern region, which holds the most seats in the lower house.

Bhumjaithai party leader Anutin Charnvirakul, a construction tycoon before entering politics, is the deputy prime minister and health minister in Prayuth’s government, giving him high visibility during the coronavirus pandemic.

He and his party are best known for campaigning and implementing the de facto legalization of marijuana and other cannabis products, a policy that benefits the mostly agricultural northeast.

ABC News

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