BANGKOK – The Election Commission of Thailand began accepting on Monday the registration of candidates for the March 24 general election, the first since the 2014 coup.
Election will be held to elect 500 members of the House of Representatives – the lower house. Some 375 of them will be elected directly through constituency elections, while 125 will be elected through party-list proportional representation.
The Senate – upper house – will be formed of 250 legislators appointed by the military junta.
The 750-member Thai parliament will vote in the new prime minister, according to the constitution drafted by the junta and approved by a referendum in 2017.
As the registration process took off, some 450 people lined up outside the units set up by the poll panel to register as candidates and receive the number identifying their candidacy.
Parties submitted their candidate lists and the names of their three candidates for the post of prime minister at the poll panel headquarters.
The process which will run until Friday and marks the beginning of ending four years of military rule began on a quieter note. There was no fanfare and no massive crowds of supporters like earlier elections because a new electoral law prohibits that.
The Election Commission’s public relations deputy director told EFE that although many people were present at the registration, there was no dancing or celebrations.
The new electoral law has introduced a number of changes to election process, which have been criticized by opposition parties for allegedly favoring Phalang Pracharat, the party of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, the head of the military junta.
Prayut, who has not confirmed his candidature for the party, led by four former ministers of his cabinet, could also continue in his post without contesting the elections if the new parliament approves his name, according to the constitution.
The electoral changes include the allocation of a unique number identifying each candidate on the ballot paper, and the rearrangement of electoral constituencies that have been reduced to 350 from the previous 400.
The registration of candidates follows the announcement of prime ministerial candidates by different parties last week.
The Puea Thai party has named three ex-ministers loyal to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, leader of the political faction which has won all the elections held since 2001 thanks to his populist policies.
Thaksin, ousted in an earlier coup in 2006, is living in exile with his sister Yingluck Shinawatra, prime minister of the last democratic government, and both of them have been sentenced in corruption cases in their absence.
The two leaders have alleged that the cases against them are politically motivated.
The Democrat Party, traditionally preferred by the wealthy section of Bangkok’s population, has nominated former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was in office between 2008-2011 after the courts disqualified governments supporting Thaksin.
Thailand has lived through 20 successful and attempted coups since absolute monarchy was abolished in 1932.