The daughter of Thailand’s self-exiled former leader Thaksin Shinawatra has declared her readiness to run for prime minister in an election this year, as the main opposition seeks to regain power after being ousted in a coup eight years ago.
Paetongtarn Shinawatra, whose father Thaksin and aunt Yingluck Shinawatra both led governments toppled by the army, will run under the Pheu Thai Party, the latest incarnation of a populist movement founded by her billionaire family two decades ago.
“Yes, I am ready,” she told reporters late on Sunday in northeast Thailand, the rural stronghold of the Shinawatras that delivered them unprecedented majorities in five elections since 2001.
“We want the party to win the election by a landslide so the promises we made to the people can be realised,” she said.
Pheu Thai, which is hugely popular among the rural and urban working classes, won most seats in the last election in 2019 but was unable to form a government.
Administrations loyal to Shinawatras have each been removed by the military or judicial rulings, adding fuel to a seemingly intractable political crisis that has ebbed and flowed in Thailand for over 17 years.
Paetongtarn, 36, has attended party rallies in the past year and has led opinion polls in recent months on top prime minister candidates, far ahead of incumbent Prayuth Chan-ocha, who as army chief overthrew Yingluck’s government.
Both Yingluck and Thaksin are living overseas to avoid jail terms handed down under military rule.
Prayuth has been in charge since 2014, initially as junta leader and then prime minister picked by parliament after a 2019 election that his critics said was held under rules designed to keep him in power. He insists he earned the role fairly.
Prayuth, 68, joined the new United Thai Nation Party last week, hinting at a bid to remain premier.
He has yet to dissolve parliament and an election must be held by May.