Pita Limjaroenrat (known simply as Pita, as Thais address each other by their first name) leaped on stage dressed in jeans, short sleeves and white sneakers. Adorned in orange, the color of the Move Forward Party, he made a rock star arrival in front of thousands of supporters, who on Thursday, May 4, had gathered in Nonthaburi, a city in the northern suburbs of Bangkok, along the Chao Phraya River. And he had good reason, as just the day before, he had been polled as the favorite for prime minister in the May 14 elections. Limjaroenrat, aged 40 and divorced, entered politics in 2018. A Harvard graduate, he managed his family’s rice oil business before becoming CEO of Grab Thailand, a Southeast Asian technology company. His poll ratings have surpassed those of the Pheu Thai Party candidate, Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the daughter of former prime minister Thaksin, now in exile. Still topping the rankings, Limjaroenrat symbolizes the renewal to which part of the Thai population aspires.
Move Forward is the successor to the Future Forward Party, a young party that shook up the Thai political scene during the 2019 election (the first to be held after the 2014 coup) when it took third place in the election. It was dissolved in 2020 by the Constitutional Court. Nevertheless, it was able to keep its members by becoming independent, which worked in favor of the Move Forward Party. In terms of the number of likely seats, the polls have now placed the party in second position behind Pheu Thai, the country’s leading political party. However, the prime minister will have to be voted in not only by the 500 newly elected MPs but also by the 250 senators still in office and previously appointed by the generals in power. The Move Forward Party’s role will be a decisive one, either as a natural coalition partner for Pheu Thai, with the intention of alternating with the generals, or as the head of the opposition if the Thaksin clan’s party chooses a conservative ally in order to benefit from the support of senators.
Move Forward will not compromise: “If there are ‘uncles,’ there is no us. If there is us, there are no ‘uncles.'” Limjaroenrat shouted at the top of his lungs to the jubilant crowd on a very hot May 4 The “uncles” in this Move Forward campaign slogan are the three generals who took power in the 2014 coup, and after the 2019 elections, they remained, due to a tailor-made constitution and several judicial shows of strength.
Breaking the ‘endless loop’ of blows
Prayut Chan-o-cha, the incumbent prime minister and former junta leader, is running for re-election for the United Thai Nation Party, which is ranked third in the polls. Chan-o-cha is the embodiment of the ultra-royalist right-wing movement and is quick to condemn any dissent. His party campaign video shows a version of Thailand plunged into chaos, where an ungrateful teenager pushes away the food served by his parents on the grounds that the menu was not democratically established. Even the military has released alarmist videos, one of which is a replay of a song associated with the ultra-royalist militias involved in the October 6, 1976 massacre of students at Thammassat University, which prompted an outraged May 11 op-ed in the Bangkok Post, which is usually very consensual in tone. “Treating those with different ideas as ‘enemies’ is not acceptable by any standard. In particular, the armed forces have a moral obligation to stay neutral in politics and must accept any result won through free and fair elections, as endorsed by the constitution. “
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