Thaksin-linked party maintains lead in poll ahead of Thai vote

THAILAND’S main opposition party remains the top choice of voters ahead of a general election next month, with Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his party falling further behind in their bid to retain power, according to an opinion poll.

Pheu Thai, linked to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, was backed by 47 per cent of the participants in the Apr 3-7 survey by the National Institute of Development Administration, known as Nida. That’s down from 49.8 per cent in March, indicating a tightening race as parties ramp up electioneering ahead of voting on May 14. 

The popularity of the progressive Move Forward Party jumped to about 22 per cent from 17 per cent in the March poll. Prayut’s conservative United Thai Nation Party came in third with 11 per cent support, down from 12 per cent, and the incumbent premier was the third most-preferred candidate to lead the country. Prayut was the favoured PM candidate of 13.6 per cent of survey respondents, behind the 35.7 per cent for Pheu Thai’s Paetongtarn Shinawatra and 20.3 per cent for Move Forward’s Pita Limcharoenrat.

The election is shaping up to be a battle between the pro-establishment groups of the ruling military-backed coalition and a pro-democracy camp of opposition parties. The major parties are all promising a similar package of cash handouts, higher minimum wages and the suspension of debt repayments to woo about 52 million voters.

More than 60 parties have registered their candidates for the election to the 500-seat House of Representatives, where 400 members will be elected using the first-past-the-post method and the remaining will be picked through a proportional representation system.

In another survey by Thai language newspapers Matichon and Daily News, Pita, a former executive director of ride-hailing firm Grab Holdings’s Thailand office emerged as the most-preferred prime minister candidate. He garnered the support of 29.4 per cent of respondents in the Apr 8-14 nationwide online poll of about 84,000 voters.

Pheu Thai’s Paetongtarn came in second at 23.2 per cent and Srettha Thavisin, another of the party’s premier candidates, was third, with support of 16.7 per cent. Paetongtarn-led Pheu Thai, which has emerged as the single largest party in parliament in every election in the past two decades, was backed by 38.9 per cent of respondents, with Pita’s Move Forward coming second at 32.3 per cent.

Prayut came in fourth in the Matichon-Daily News survey with an approval rating of 13.7 per cent, and his United Thai Nation Party placed third with support of 12.8 per cent of the respondents. BLOOMBERG

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