Thais are voting Sunday for the legislative elections, the first since the coup of 2014, a test for the generals, who intend to keep the power, but might suffer from a strong mobilization of voters.
For years, Thailand is deeply divided between factions in favour of the influential family of Shinawatra (“Red”) and a conservative elite aligned with the army (“Yellow”) presented as a measure of stability and protection of the monarchy. But the lines are more uncertain during this election.
The seven million new voters being asked to vote are between 18 and 25 years old and new parties, like the movement Future Forward (“forward the future”) the billionaire Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, could in fact pull their pin of the game.
In total, 51 million voters are being called to go to the polls from 08: 00 to 17: 00 (01: 00 to 10: 00 GMT) and the preliminary results are expected in the evening. The “92.320 polling stations” opened in the kingdom, said to AFP the secretary-general of the election Commission, Jarungvich Phumma.
Saturday evening, the king of Thailand, Maha Vajiralongkorn, whose public interventions are extremely rare, was called to “support the good people” to prevent “sow chaos”. It was of the terms used in 1969 by his father Bhumibol Adulyadej, adored by Thais, and died in 2016.
The message of Maha Vajiralongkorn, whose influence in the kingdom goes well beyond its status as a constitutional monarch, was aired by the tv channels a few moments before the opening of polling stations.
“For the past five years, we have not had the opportunity to decide by ourselves (…). This moment is very important for our country,” states Wasa Anupant, a doctor of 28 years.
The election pitting those who support the junta and those calling for more democracy.
But new election rules limit the chances of a single party gaining a parliamentary majority comfortable, according to observers who fear him “an impasse” policy.
– The senate controlled by the army –
The generals hope to keep the power, but the high turnout expected, especially among the seven million new voters, could allow the breakthrough of opposition parties, pro-democracy.
Prayut Chan-O-Cha, head of the junta, has created an advantage comfortable with a new Constitution, adopted in 2016, which gives the army the power to appoint the 250-member Senate.
Therefore, it is sufficient to Phalang Pracharat party, the party of the military, to get 126 seats out of 500 in the House of representatives to keep control of the country.
The other political movements, the first of which are the main opposition party, the Pheu Thai will have to winning 376 seats to form a government.
“All those who want democracy have to go to the polls for that (the vote) to be transparent and to assist in the development of the country,” said Prayut Chan-O-Cha after having deposited his ballot paper in the ballot box.
The Pheu Thai party close to the old “red Shirts” and other movements allied to the family of Shinawatra, should continue to gain wide acceptance in the rural areas and poor populated areas of the north and north-east.
They have won all elections since 2001, but they have lost their emblematic figures: Thaksin Shinawatra was overthrown in 2006 and went into exile two years later, just like his sister, Yingluck pushed out in 2014.
Another blow to the billionaire, the Thai Raksat Chart, one of the close movements of his clan, was dissolved in February by the constitutional Court and its leaders banned from political life for ten years.
They have been found guilty of acts “hostile to the monarchy” to have proposed to the sister of the king, princess Ubolratana, as a candidate for the post of Prime minister.
The euphoria had been short-lived for the clan Shinawatra.
A few hours after the announcement of this nomination, the king had torpedoed the ambitions of his sister, recalling that the monarchy was “above politics”.
Friday in Hong Kong, this latest is all the same, appeared smiling alongside Thaksin Shinawatra during the lavish wedding of the daughter of the magnate.