Thailand will hold a general election in May, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha said Tuesday, with unofficial campaigning already under way.
The embattled premier, who came to power as army chief in a 2014 coup before taking over as PM after a controversial 2019 election, told reporters he would dissolve parliament in March.
Under Thai constitutional rules, this would mean an election some time in May, with May 7 seen by many observers as the most likely date.
“I will dissolve (parliament). I said March so it will be March, so this would fit with May,” he told reporters after a regular cabinet meeting.
With the economy struggling and the vital tourism sector hit hard by the pandemic, the 68-year-old’s popularity has been in the doldrums, but last month he announced a re-election bid at a rally.
Prayut will run under the banner of the newly created Ruam Thai Sang Chart party, with current ruling party Palan Pracharath Party (PPRP) last month naming Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan as its candidate for PM in the next election.
Campaign billboards are already popping up around the country and the main opposition party Pheu Thai has been campaigning in its traditional strongholds in the northeast.
Pheu Thai is polling well but the current Thai constitution, drafted under junta rule, gives army-linked parties a strong advantage.
The election will be the first since mass youth-led street protests rocked the kingdom in 2020, with calls for political reform and unprecedented demands for changes to the monarchy, which is heavily protected from criticism under Thai law.
Pheu Thai is expected to nominate Paetongtarn Shinawatra — daughter of former premier Thaksin Shinawatra — as one of its candidates for prime minister.
Billionaire tycoon Thaksin was ousted as prime minister in a 2006 coup and lives in self-imposed exile to avoid corruption charges he has said are politically motivated.