Thailand’s general elections 2023: who are the main candidates running for Prime Minister?

Who's who?

Yen Zhi Yi | April 07, 2023, 06:01 PM

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Thailand’s general elections are set to be held on May 14, 2023.

The country dissolved its parliament on Mar. 20 to make way for the elections.

Thailand has been under the rule of its military government that came into power in May 2014 through a coup, which was the 12th one since the country's first coup in 1932.

This year, the general elections will pit the military royalists led by the United Thai Nation Party against an opposition grouping led by Pheu Thai Party, Reuters reported.

Key contenders for the top job:

1. Prayuth Chan-Ocha (United Thai Nation Party)

The United Thai Nation Party’s first candidate for premier is Prayuth Chan-Ocha, 69, who has served as Thailand’s prime minister since he seized power in 2014.

Image via Facebook/Prayut Chan-o-cha

He was earlier forced to form a new political party after breaking away from the ruling party in order to retain his position, Bloomberg reported.

Prayuth would need to rebuild confidence among the populace should he wish to extend his grip on power.

He said that he has confidence in his party winning the election and would not have joined otherwise, according to Thai PBS World.

However, he would need to rebuild confidence if he wishes to prolong his term in office as the military government has been falling out of favour among Thai citizens.

In September 2022, Thailand’s Constitutional Court had ruled his eight-year term starting from Apr. 6, 2017, so he would only be able to remain in office until 2025 if he were re-elected as Prime Minister, according to Bangkok Post.

2. Pirapan Salirathavibhaga (United Thai Nation Party)

The second candidate nominated by United Thai Nation Party is its party leader Pirapan Salirathavibhaga.

Image via Facebook/United Thai Nation Party

The 64-year-old is a political veteran and Prayuth’s secretary-general. He was also the justice minister under Abhisit Vejjajiva’s administration, according to Bloomberg.

Prayuth chose him as his successor and expressed “more than 100% confidence in him” to take over as prime minister if the former won the elections and continued to serve his eight-year tenure, Bangkok Post reported.

3. Prawit Wongsuwan (Palang Pracharth Party)

Prawit Wongsuwan, 77, is the prime minister nominee from Thailand’s ruling pro-military Palang Pracharth Party.

Image via Facebook/Prawit Wongsuwan

He is currently Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister and was described as “the centre of the party” by its members, according to Reuters.

Like Prayuth, he was a former army chief and was part of military coups that toppled governments led by the Shinawatras.

It remains unclear whether he and Prayuth would become coalition partners after the general election as the latter has refused to comment, according to Bangkok Post.

4. Paetongtarn Shinawatra (Pheu Thai Party)

36-year-old Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the daughter of Thailand's former exiled prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is the face of the opposition Pheu Thai Party.

She is the most popular candidate for Prime Minister so far, leading opinion polls ahead of Prayuth and Pita Limjaroenrat, the leader of another opposition party.

Paetongtarn is hoping to gain the support of the electorate which led to her father and aunt, Yingluck Shinawatra, winning the elections before their administrations were ousted by the military junta, Reuters reported.

She is eight-month pregnant but continues to take the stage during her party’s massive rallies across Thailand, according to The Nation.

However, it would be challenging even if her party won the elections as they would still need to secure sufficient votes to influence Thailand’s military-appointed senators, The Guardian reported.

These 250 officials will be the ones deciding who gets to be prime minister.

5. Pita Limjaroenrat (Move Forward Party)

Pita Limjaroenrat, 42, is a Thai businessman and the leader of the Move Forward Party which is popular among younger voters, according to Reuters.

Image via Facebook/Pita Limjaroenrat

He is the first choice for prime minister among voters in Bangkok, based on an opinion poll cited by Thai PBS World.

Like Pheu Thai, Move Forward Party opposes the influence of the military junta.

Pita has openly rejected being part of a government with the ruling party of United Thai Nation Party, Nikkei Asia reported.

His party’s goals are focused on enhancing competition and innovation in sectors like information technology and telecommunications.

6. Anutin Charnvirakul (Bhumjaithai Party)

Anutin Charnvirakul, 52, is the country's health minister and has been nominated by his pro-government Bhumjaithai Party as their candidate for prime minister.

Image via Facebook/Anutin Charnvirakul

He was in charge of managing the country's Covid-19 situation and later came under controversy for the policy to decriminalise cannabis.

Anutin also raised eyebrows when he hugged Prayuth in a “sign of friendship” after a Cabinet meeting, but he denied that he had made any pre-election deals with the latter’s party, The Nation reported.

7. Jurin Laksanawisit (Democrat Party)

Jurin Laksanawisit, 67, is the sole prime minister nominee for Thailand's Democrat Party.

He is currently the country's Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Commerce.

Image via Facebook/Jurin Laksanawisit

The politician also served as health and education minister during Abhisit Vejjajiva’s administration.

Jurin’s party did not win any seat in Bangkok during the elections in 2019, and he did not come in the top 10 most favoured candidates for prime minister, Bangkok Post reported.

8. Sudarat Keyuraphan (Thai Sang Thai Party)

The 61-year-old is the former strategic chief of the Pheu Thai Party and now the chairwoman of the opposition Thai Sang Thai party.

Image via Facebook/Sudarat Keyuraphan

As one of the few women in Thai politics, Sudarat believed in inspiring more women to take part in politics so as to develop Thailand’s political landscape and society, The Nation reported.

She had held various key positions in the country’s government and served multiple terms as a Member of Parliament (MP).

In 2019, she was also nominated as her then-party Pheu Thai’s prime minister candidate.

Jurin is highly favoured in opinion polls due to her strong background in government, according to Thai PBS World.


Top images via Facebook/Pheu Thai & United Thai Nation Party, Instagram/@ingshin21