# THAILAND ELECTION: FRONTRUNNER PAETONGTARN SHINAWATRA GIVES BIRTH TWO WEEKS BEFORE POLLS OPEN
Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the frontrunner in Thailand’s upcoming national elections, gave birth to her second child on Monday, just two weeks before the polls open on May 14. Paetongtarn, whose family dominates the largest opposition Pheu Thai party, shared a photo on Instagram of herself, her husband, and their newborn named Pluenkthasinsuksawat, nicknamed Thasin. While Paetongtarn recovers, she plans to meet with the press in a few days.
Paetongtarn’s father, Thaksin Shinawatra, also served as prime minister in the politically turbulent kingdom and was ousted from power by a military coup in 2006 and accused of corruption. Her aunt, Yingluck, was removed from power in a controversial court ruling, and Prayut Chan-o-cha, the current prime minister, previously seized power from the Pheu Thai government in 2014.
THE ELECTION SHOWDOWN
The upcoming election has been framed as a showdown between Paetongtarn and Prayut Chan-o-cha, the head of a pro-military conservative grouping. Property tycoon Srettha Thavisin and former justice minister Chaikasem Nitisiri also run for the prime minister spot as Pheu Thai party candidates. Paetongtarn, who appears to be leading the polls, was the most popular choice for prime minister in a National Institute of Development Administration survey conducted with 2,000 participants, receiving « more than the double support » of her rivals.
The vote in May will be Thailand’s first since youth-led mass pro-democracy protests in 2020 made unprecedented demands to curb the powers of both the monarchy and the military. In Thailand, insulting the king is a crime punishable by years in prison, and such calls broke long-held taboos and shook the establishment. However, Paetongtarn’s party faces a greater obstacle than just winning the most votes from the public. Political parties allied to Thaksin have won the most seats in every election since 2001 but have struggled to hold on to power due to the military exerting its influence, either through coups or other means.
THE ROLE OF THE SENATE
Under a constitution drafted by the military following the last coup, the 250-seat Senate, which is stacked with allies of the military establishment, is also able to influence who becomes the next prime minister. This year’s election will see some 52 million eligible voters elect 500 members to the lower house in Thailand’s bicameral system.
With Paetongtarn’s background and the political climate, this election is one to keep an eye on. While the social and political landscape continues to shift and evolve in Thailand, the future of the country’s democracy hangs in the balance.
– CNN article on Paetongtarn Shinawatra giving birth: https://www.cnn.com/2022/05/03/asia/thailand-shinawatra-baby-election-intl-hnk/index.html
– « Thailand’s political crisis explained » CNN video: https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2022/05/02/thailands-political-crisis-explained-snd-vpx.cnn
– National Institute of Development Administration survey: https://www.nationthailand.com/news/105044929