Thailand is going to the polls on Sunday, May 14, to elect a new 500-seat House of Representatives for the next four years. This is the first general election since 2019, when the military-backed Palang Pracharat party won a narrow majority and formed a coalition government led by former army chief Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The election comes amid a surge of Covid-19 cases and deaths in the country, which has prompted criticism of the government’s handling of the pandemic and vaccine rollout. The election also coincides with a wave of pro-democracy protests that have been demanding constitutional reforms, an end to military influence in politics, and more freedom and rights for the people.
The main contenders in the election are the Pheu Thai party, which is controlled by the billionaire Shinawatra family and has a large base of support among rural and working-class voters; the Move Forward party, which is a successor of the dissolved Future Forward party that appealed to young and urban voters; the Palang Pracharat party, which is backed by the establishment and the military; and the United Thai Nation party, which is a new party formed by Prayuth Chan-Ocha to seek re-election as prime minister.
Other parties that could play a role in forming a coalition government include the Bhumjaithai party, which has championed the legalization of cannabis; the Democrat party, which is Thailand’s oldest political party; and the Chartthaipattana party, which is led by Varawut Silpa-archa, the current minister of natural resources and environment.
The election system is a mixed-member proportional representation system, where voters have two ballots: one for a local constituency representative and one for their preferred party on a national level. There are 400 seats for winning constituency candidates and 100 party seats allocated on a proportional basis.
To become prime minister, the winning candidate must have the votes of more than half of the combined houses of parliament, which consists of the elected lower house and the appointed upper house or Senate. The Senate has 250 members who were selected by the military following its 2014 coup that ousted former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
The election commission says unofficial results should be released on Sunday evening, but official results may take up to two months to be announced. The new parliament is expected to convene in August to vote for the prime minister.