Thailand’s (Possible) Election: A Plethora of Parties Register, But Will Politics Actually Change?

Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, the founder of Thailand’s Future Forward Party, smiles during the launch of the party in Bangkok, Thailand, on March 15, 2018.

Although Thailand’s ruling junta has put off elections for years, since seizing power in its May 2014 coup, it is now claiming that elections will be held in early 2019. Some observers, such as the astute Shawn Crispin of Asia Times, believe that the junta well may delay the election again, in order to prevent any potential transfer of power; it could use the excuse of needing to delay until a formal royal coronation for King Rama X, for instance. Or, it could use the pretext of continuing instability in the kingdom—protests against junta rule or other incidents—to remain in power.

However, the military did recently allow political parties to begin to register for a future election, and around forty political parties have registered already. One of the parties that registered and received attention is the Future Forward Party, led by a wealthy young Thai auto parts magnate, Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit. He claims that his party will focus on progressive policies and will smooth the way for a return to democracy. He suggests the party will be a new, third force that could lift Thailand out of its longstanding political divides between Thaksin Shinawatra’s Peua Thai party and the military and its allies in Bangkok. Reuters notes that Thanathorn has “said he hoped to appeal to younger voters and disenfranchised citizens.”

The buzz around the Future Forward Party, which has received substantial media coverage by Thai outlets in Bangkok, does suggest that some Thais are looking for a new political figure who might move beyond existing deadlocks. Perhaps they are looking for a kind of Thai Emmanuel Macron, who can somehow bring the country together…

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