By Jintamas Saksornchai and Pravit Rojanaphruk
BANGKOK — Excitement spread Monday as dozens of candidates flocked to register their candidacies to contest the first successful election since 2011.
In Bangkok, party members and supporters held signs and colorful parades for the candidates, cheering loudly as they entered the Bangkok Youth Center in the capital’s Din Daeng district. Many appeared enthusiastic and voiced hope for the election despite concern it may not be free or fair.
Top party names to head parades included Pheu Thai’s Sudarat Keyuraphan, Future Forward’s Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, Action Coalition of Thailand’s Chatumongkol Sonakul, Democrats’ Abhisit Vejjajiva and Palang Pracharat’s Suvit Maesincee.
An excited and slightly bombastic Kanphong Prayoonsak, a first time politician with Future Forward, registered to run in the Nong Khaem district, saying he wants to change the country after five years of military rule.
“We’re about to change [the past],” he said. “We’re gonna change by our campaign, by the power of our youth.”
Kanphong said he wasn’t worried if the junta’s election rules put the parties at a disadvantage.
“This is an unfair election, but we’re gonna play [by] their game,” he said. “We’re gonna beat them with their rules.”
Candidate registration opened in all provinces nationwide today. In Uttaradit, Pheu Thai candidate Saranwut Saranket dressed as a Thai warrior and rode into the registration center on a horse, saying he was there to kick out dictatorship.
In recent days, campaign posters have sprung up throughout the streets as messaging begins in the run-up to the March 24 poll.
The Democrat Party’s Maj. Gen. Wichai Sangprapai, a former deputy metro police commander who will compete for the Lak Si district seat, appeared less optimistic about the playing field given that the upper house will be fully appointed by junta leader Gen. Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The 250 unelected members of the Senate are expected to support Prayuth’s ongoing rule after Election Day, making it difficult for any other candidates to garner enough backing among the fractious parties.
But that’s not stopping Wichai from throwing his hat in the ring.
“We have to accept and comply with what the constitution says,” he said. “We might be frustrated by those rules, but we have to play by the book.”
A spokeswoman for canned food scion Kraisorn Tohtubtiang, a candidate fielded by the pro-junta Palang Pracharat Party to represent Bangkok’s Thung Khru and Rat Burana, said the election will be fair for all parties.
“It’s fair because we have no privileges. Everyone is under the same rules. We act under the laws, and the people will decide,” she said.
Candidate registration ends Friday.