Parties hold final rallies as Thailand prepares to vote

25-Mar-2019 Intellasia | Aljazeera | 6:00 AM Print This Post

Before Sunday’s elections, enthusiastic supporters cheer Future Forward party leader as campaigning draws to a close.

In January last year, in the quiet library of his family home in Bangkok, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit sat down beneath the chandeliers with a group of friends to lament the state of his country.

After discussions that went on into the early hours, Thanathorn and his guests decided to set up a political party that would offer the Thai people the promise of a fair and equitable democratic nation and a military confined to its barracks.

“There was fear everywhere,” Thanathorn told Al Jazeera of his decision last year to go into politics.

“There was no glimpse of hope. We said someone has to stand up to the military regime, destroy the politics of fear and bring back the politics of hopeso that’s what we did.”

On Friday, two days before Thailand votes in its first election since the military overthrew the last democratically elected government in 2014, the 40-year-old father of four took to the stage in a Bangkok stadium to a deafening roar and cries of “Prime minister, prime minister”.

‘They see their future in Thanathorn’

As the election date was finally confirmed for March and campaigning got under way, a buzz began to build around Thanathorn and his Future Forward Party, fuelled partly by social media.

But Future Forward also seemed to be attracting the attention of the estimated seven million first-time voters frustrated at the political divisions between the populist pro-democracy parties associated with Thaksin Shinawatra and the conservative establishment aligned with the military and the monarchy.

“Young voters are fed up with the deep polarisation,” said Prajak Kongkirati, of Thammasat University, who wrote his doctoral thesis on political violence and democracy in Thailand between 1975 and 2011.

“That’s why Future Forward is attractive to them. They are fed up with both [Prime minister] Prayuth and Thaksin and are looking for alternatives. They see their future in Thanathorn who represents their generation, their hope and a new kind of politics.” Thanathorn, 40, made his fortune in the car parts industrynow hived off into a blind trustand is at least a decade younger than the typical Thai election candidate.

Prayuth Chan-ocha who led the coup and is trying to hold onto power as a civilian prime minister turned 65 on Thursday, while Sudarat Keyuraphan of Pheu Thai has held ministerial roles in previous democratic governments and is 57. The Democrats Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was prime minister during the bloody crackdown on Bangkok street protests in 2010, is now 54.


Category: Thailand

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