Thai Opposition party vows better living standards as polls near

File picture of Pheu Thai Party opposition leader Chonlanan Srikaew speaking during a no-confidence debate at the Parliament in Bangkok, Thailand, on July 19, 2022. - AP

BANGKOK (Bloomberg): Thailand’s biggest opposition party, seeking to end more than eight years of military-backed rule, vowed to raise living standards as it unveiled a large list of candidates in a show of strength ahead of general elections expected early next year.

Pheu Thai Party, which has the largest number of lawmakers in the lower house, named 93 candidates on Tuesday (Aug 16) who will run for seats in 17 provinces in the rural northeastern region, stealing a march over other political parties. Elections have to be called by March next year.

"Our mission is to bring back democracy, good standards of living, take back the future of our children and grandchildren and our country,” party leader Cholnan Srikaew said at the event in Bangkok, where he introduced the candidates one by one.

"This mission cannot be achieved without the power of the people of Isaan,” he said, appealing to the party’s northeastern supporters, many of whom are still loyal to ousted former populist premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Pheu Thai aims to win at least 250 seats in the 500-member House of Representatives in next year’s election, according to Cholnan. He called on the grassroots stronghold to help deliver a "landslide” victory and boot out Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha.

The party won an election in 2011 by a wide margin, forming a majority government with Yingluck Shinawatra, Thaksin’s sister, as prime minister. She was toppled by Prayuth in a 2014 coup. Following the last general election in 2019, the former coupmaker has stayed on as a civilian prime minister.

Cholnan’s remarks came after Pheu Thai’s successful parliamentary bid to reverse an election rule change back to one that would benefit bigger parties by requiring more votes for each party to get one of the 100 party-list seats up for grabs.

Pheu Thai has previously announced 30 candidates for some of the northern constituencies and 21 for Bangkok. The number it has announced so far accounts for more than a third of 400 nationwide constituency seats in the lower house. The party plans to have a candidate compete in every electoral district.

Tuesday’s event, attended by many supporters from Bangkok and beyond, signaled that the party is ramping up preparation for the elections. Pheu Thai’s list is the largest by far among Thai political parties, some of which have also started unveiling candidates in their respective key regions.

Like many others, Pheu Thai has said it is waiting until closer to the election date to announce its campaign promises and name its three prime minister candidates.

©2022 Bloomberg L.P.

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