Thailand elections today: Young voters call for change in military-dominated kingdom
DECCAN CHRONICLE | DC Correspondent
Bangkok [Thailand]: As Thailand prepares for elections on Sunday, young voters spearhead 'earth-shaking' calls for change in the military-dominated kingdom, reported CNN.
Voting is scheduled to begin at 8 am (01:00 GMT) on Sunday and will conclude at 5 pm (10:00 GMT). About 52 million voters will choose members of a new 500-seat House of Representatives for the next four years.
A total of 500 seats are up for grabs in the lower house of parliament - 400 are constituency seats with the remaining 100 seats distributed proportionately to each party's overall vote share. Some 70 parties are taking part in the contest.
The "lost generation" of young voters fired up by a yearning for change are keeping alive previously taboo topics, including the military's stranglehold on the levers of power - and even royal reform, reported CNN.
The May 14 poll is the first since youth-led mass pro-democracy protests in 2020 and only the second since a military coup in 2014 ousted an elected government, restoring a conservative clique that has pulled the strings in the kingdom's turbulent politics for decades.
While an old battleground has emerged between democratic allies and pro-military parties, at the heart of this year's election is a fight led by a young generation who want what they see as a better version of Thailand, reported CNN.
Two parties - populist Pheu Thai and progressive Move Forward - are leading the polls, with both campaignings to remove the military from politics.
The opposition Pheu Thai is aiming for a landslide. Paetongtarn Shinawatra, 36, is one of the party's three prime ministerial candidates and the latest member of a controversial political dynasty to contest.
The election will be the latest bout in a long-running battle between parties backed by a royalist-military establishment and a progressive, pro-business opposition with a track record of wooing working-class voters and winning every election in the past two decades.
Pheu Thai, a party linked to the self-exiled billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, has a big lead in opinion polls as it did in previous elections, followed by another opposition party, Move Forward, which is seeking to mobilise youth voters.
Prayuth Chan-ocha, who first came to power in a coup in 2014, is one of Thailand's longest-serving prime ministers.
He is seeking re-election again, though constitutional term limits mean he can only remain in the top job for two more years.
But the 69-year-old's United Thai Nation party is trailing in the polls, coming in at a distant third in opinion surveys, behind the main opposition Pheu Thai and the youth-led Move Forward Party, reported Al Jazeera.
It is pledging deep structural reforms to how Thailand is run: changes to the military, the economy, the decentralization of power and even reforms to the previously untouchable monarchy.
"That is earth-shaking in Thailand as [the monarchy] is a taboo subject," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist from Chulalongkorn University.
"That's why this election is unlike any other. That's why this election is the most important in Thai elections. Because it's moving the agenda, it's moving the frontier to next stage... to the core of Thailand's problems," he added.