Paetongtarn far ahead of rivals for PM

Taking the lead: Paetongtarn (centre) posing for a photograph with supporters at Thammasat University’s indoor gymnasium in Pathum Thani province, north of Bangkok. — AP

Paetongtarn Shinawatra, daughter of former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and her Pheu Thai party widened leads as the voters’ top choice in the latest opinion poll ahead of a general election tentatively scheduled for May.

Paetongtarn, who represents the South-East Asian nation’s largest opposition party, garnered 38.2% of support in a poll of 2,000.

It’s the latest edition of a quarterly survey by the National Institute of Development Administration. Her approval jumped from 34% in the previous poll conducted in December.

The Pheu Thai party, which seeks to end nearly a decade of military-backed rule, got 49.75% of backing in the survey, an increase from 42.95% in December’s poll.

The party has pledged to lift the minimum wage by 70% and boost economic growth to an average of 5% annually if voted into power.

Incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha garnered the backing of 15.7% of respondents, also up from December’s 14%, ranking him third.

The coup-leader-turned-premier kicked off his campaign to extend his rule by ordering the dissolution of the nation’s parliament, a prerequisite for the May poll.

Prayut, 68, submitted a decree to disband the House of Representatives for royal endorsement, he told reporters during a trip to Chiang Mai on Friday.

The order, which may be published in the Royal Gazette today, will come just days before the house’s four-year term ends on March 23.

Prayut is buying more time to campaign and recruit members to run for his new party, which lists him as the sole prime minister candidate.

Pledges from the top nine parties so far will require about 3.14 trillion baht (RM412bil) per year, after excluding their overlapping policies, according to an analysis by Thailand Development Research Institute.

The litany of promises from the two main parties will require 2 trillion baht each (RM262bil) per year to implement, the institute said. — Bloomberg

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