The former general has been in power since 2014 and is running with the new United Thai Nation Party.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has accepted his party’s nomination as prime minister and will run for re-election in polls set for May 14.
Prayuth, a 69-year-old former general, has promised to build a new political climate that does away with decades of conflict. He is running with the recently formed United Thai Nation Party.
The incumbent, in power since 2014 when the military toppled a civilian government, brought in five years of army-enforced stability.
But after he was selected Thailand’s civilian leader after the 2019 election, there were new outbursts of violence as his government used heavy-handed measures to try to curb student-led pro-democracy demonstrations.
Party leader Pirapan Salirathavibhaga was nominated as the party’s second candidate for prime minister.
Thailand has suffered from political instability since 2006 when the army removed the government of populist Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in a coup.
Prayuth will likely face the Pheu Thai party’s Paetongtarn Shinawatra, daughter and niece of two former prime ministers from the billionaire family.
Thailand’s election is set to be a showdown between an elite establishment and pro-democracy forces that have dominated politics in the Southeast Asian country for decades.
Prayuth’s path back to the top looks challenging. Opinion polls put him far behind Shinawatra as well as a candidate from a progressive party.
Populist parties linked to Thaksin have won the most seats in every election since 2001.
Prayuth also faces a challenge from Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who is known as a formidable political operator.
The former army comrades recently drifted apart with Prayuth joining the United Thai Nation party and Prawit staying with Palang Pracharath, the largest party in the government coalition.
The prime minister is not directly chosen by popular vote but is selected by a joint session of both houses of parliament.
The 250-seat upper house, or Senate, is likely to vote as a bloc in favour of a conservative candidate. In 2019, the Senate unanimously backed Prayuth.
The military veteran may be lagging rivals in opinion polls but hopes to win over supporters with promises of looking after the wellbeing of the people, improving the country’s stability and protecting the monarchy.
“We will create a new political climate,” Prayuth said in a speech before 1,000 supporters at a convention centre on the outskirts of Bangkok on Saturday, less than a week after he dissolved parliament to set the May 14 election date.
“We will have policies that address issues of the people and the country, and most importantly – and I only need to say one word, I don’t need to expand or anything – we will move beyond conflict,” he said.
“We cannot have any more conflict,” he said. “In the decades that have passed, there have been problems. Don’t forget. Don’t have short-term memory. We cannot let it happen again.”
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