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Thailand’s Elections Create Tension as Army Chief Promises No Coup


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On Sunday, parliamentary elections were under way in Thailand, as the country’s 52 million eligible voters stood on the brink of possibly deposing incumbent Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha, a former coup general.

Opinion polls had been putting the opposition ahead for months, especially Paetongtarn Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party. The 36-year-old businesswoman, who became a mother for the second time two weeks ago, is the daughter of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The progressive Move Forward party led by Peta Limjaronrat, 42, has also made significant gains recently, especially among younger voters.

However, the 69-year-old Beirut could stay in power due to a constitutional amendment introduced after the 2014 military coup. This stipulates that, along with 500 newly elected lawmakers, 250 unelected members will also decide who becomes prime minister.

These were appointed by the army in 2018 and are considered loyal to Beirut. Prayuth announced that if he lost, he would retire from politics, just days before the elections.

For weeks, there has been speculation about possible coalitions that would allow the opposition to secure a majority of 376 votes even without senators.

According to observers, Thailand may face protests again if the election of the head of government does not reflect the will of the people. The Bangkok Post wrote on Sunday that today’s vote will decide whether the Southeast Asian country will “undergo radical change or maintain the status quo.”

Army Chief Narongpan Jitkayuthai allayed fears of a possible new military coup in the aftermath of the elections.

He said that there would not be another military coup under his leadership. People should remove the term from their vocabulary. The kingdom has witnessed more than a dozen coups since the 1930s.

Observers expected a huge turnout. Polling stations were due to close at 5 p.m. (10 a.m. GMT) and unofficial results could be announced later in the evening. However, it may take days before an official effect is available.

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