With his popularity on the rise, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is setting his sights on the South as he campaigns with his United Thai Nation (UTN) Party in the upcoming May 14 election. Deputy UTN leader Witthaya Kaewparadai notes the party’s growing support in the region, and they aim to secure at least 20 seats in the South. Gen Prayut is set to visit Trang, Phatthalung, Songkhla, and Satun, where his presence is anticipated to boost the UTN’s chances in the race.
While the UTN is a new party, Gen Prayut’s personal appeal and the reception he receives on the campaign trail are expected to work in their favor. With a total of 60 House seats available in the South, up from 50 in 2019, the stage is set for a fierce competition between the Democrats, who won 22 seats last time, and the UTN, which has emerged as a strong contender.
Political observers will closely watch the UTN’s performance, as their ability to capture seats would indicate their success in establishing a foothold in the region. However, deputy Democrat leader Niphon Bunyamanee is not worried about the UTN’s challenge, expressing confidence in the Democrats’ continued dominance in the South, thanks to the voters’ trust in their party.
Stithorn Thananithichot, director of the Office of Innovation for Democracy at the King Prajadhipok’s Institute, predicts that the 11 provinces in the upper South will form a battleground for four significant parties – the UTN, the Democrats, Bhumjaithai, and the PPRP. He believes that the UTN has a good chance due to their strong support base in these provinces, and he expects them to win at least eight to ten seats, while the Democrats are likely to grab around 20 seats, particularly in Surat Thani.
Regarding the Bhumjaithai Party and the PPRP, Stithorn expects them to win 12-15 and 2-3 seats, respectively, whereas the Pheu Thai Party is only projected to win a single seat in Phangnga. In the southern border provinces of Yala, Pattani, and Narathiwat, the Prachachart Party enjoys significant backing from local Muslim leaders, putting them in a strong position to capture most of the available seats, with Bhumjaithai, the Democrats, and the PPRP vying for the remainder, according to Srisompob Jitpiromsri, a political scientist at Prince of Songkla University’s Pattani campus.
With the stakes higher than ever, the May 14 election will be a critical test for Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his United Thai Nation Party, as they seek to extend their reach and solidify their position as a major political force in the South.