Parties gearing up campaigns
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Parties gearing up campaigns

(Clockwise) Future Forward Party introduces Bangkok MP candidates on Saturday, Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan of Pheu Thai on her campaign trail to the North early this month and Anutin Charnveerakul of Bhumjaithai opens a branch in Bang Kae district, Bangkok, on Saturday. (Photos from social media)
(Clockwise) Future Forward Party introduces Bangkok MP candidates on Saturday, Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan of Pheu Thai on her campaign trail to the North early this month and Anutin Charnveerakul of Bhumjaithai opens a branch in Bang Kae district, Bangkok, on Saturday. (Photos from social media)

Politicians roamed the country on Saturday to unveil policies and introduce prospective candidates after the election date was announced this week.

The royal decree calling the general election was published in the Royal Gazette on Wednesday and the Election Commission set the poll date on March 24 on the same day, giving parties the green light to openly campaign and woo voters.

In Ubon Ratchathani, pro-regime Palang Pracharath Party leader Uttama Savanayana on Saturday introduced candidates for 23 constituencies in four northeastern provinces — Ubon Ratchathani, Yasothon, Amnat Charoen and Si Sa Ket.

Mr Uttama promoted public welfare, sustainable and value-added farming, as well as industries driven by modern technology, as the key platforms to win voters there.

He said the party has not yet approached Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as its prime ministerial candidate but there was still time until Feb 8 to submit the list.

A party which has won more than 50 votes may propose up to three names of its prime ministerial candidates, who must give written consent to it. Each PM candidate can appear only on the list of only one party.

Media are speculating as the uncertainty drags on whether Gen Prayut will be on Palang Pracharath's PM candidate list, the party is considering two more names — Mr Uttama himself and Deputy Prime Minister Somkid Jatusripitak. 

In Hat Yai, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva on Saturday explained legal issues involving the election law and regulations to the party's 50 candidates in 12 southern provinces.

The party also said it would announce both party-list and constituency candidates on Monday.

In Bangkok, Sudarat Keyuraphan, Pheu Thai Party's chairwoman of the strategic committee, visited Bangkok Noi district.

She said the party was considering its candidate lineups, expected to be completed next week.

On the party's PM candidates, Khunying Sudarat said the names would be known next week too, adding, "Pheu Thai [list of PM candidates] won't disappoint anyone".

In addition to Khunying Sudarat, the country's largest party is expected to put former transport minister Chadchart Sittipunt as a PM candidate.

Also in Bangkok, Future Forward Party introduced its 30 MP candidates for the capital, all of whom are political newcomers.

Party leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit said: "Our candidates are representatives of low-income earners who have never seen real change. These are people who share a common ideology."

He added the party would field candidates in all 350 constituencies nationwide. "We don't want to be a small or medium-sized party. We aim to be a large one since we want to see a big change.

"Some parties boast of having the largest number of candidates with doctorate degrees. But I'm proud to say our 30 Bangkok candidates are collectively the poorest of all parties.

"And this is the reason why voters should elect us. We're a group that understands many problems. We're labourers, taxi drivers, artists, ethnic people, old generation and young generation who join hands."

Future Forward volunteers to be at the democratic forefront "whose boss is the people", he declared.

In Nakhon Ratchasima, Suwat Liptapanlop, Chartpattana Party's chairman of the advisory board, introduced candidates in all 14 districts of its stronghold Korat.

The party said it would stick to the blueprint of Gen Chatchai Choonhavan, who was prime minister during 1988-91. His policies focus on a strong economy and an absence of political conflicts.

Mr Suwat also promoted Gen Chatchai's catchphrase "No Problem". The party stressed its three-tier policies — one each for Korat, Bangkok and Thailand. "We promise to bring back the golden age of Gen Chatchai to Korat," he said.

For Thai Raksa Chart Party, a perceived Pheu Thai spinoff, Chaturon Chaisang, chairman of the strategic committee, wrote about the party's policies on Facebook.

He started by outlining 10 problems plaguing Thailand now — slow growth, farm poverty, rising household debts, wealth gap, slow exports and tourism, inequality, drugs, corruption, outdated education and city pollution.

He then offered eight measures to revive the economy. Among them are restoring confidence and investments, sustainably strengthening farmers, promoting exports by better utilising existing 12 trade pacts and starting talks with blocs with potential, promoting border trade and building infrastructure and streamlining related regulations.

Anutin Charnveerakul, leader of Bhumjaithai Party, opened a party branch in Bang Kae district on Saturday.

He said the party aimed to gain a foothold in Bangkok. Up until now, Bhumjaithai was known for its clout in the upper Northeast, especially Buri Ram.

Mr Anutin said for the capital, the party's key policies are to promote co-working space by having state agencies build offices in different places so entrepreneurs need not travel all the way to downtown Bangkok.

The other policy is to allow employees to work at home one day a week.

The policies aim to ease traffic congestions and pollution.

Asked what he thought of Palang Pracharath's plan to propose Gen Prayut as the next PM, Mr Anutin said: "I'm not afraid of anyone. I've come a long way and the more I work, the more confident I am.

"To the question which side we'll be on, I can tell you right now we're thinking of being the core party in forming a government. So it's more of a question 'Who will side with us?'"

In the latest successful general election in 2011, Pheu Thai led with 265 of all 500 MPs, followed by the Democrat party (159) and Bhumjaithai (34). The turnout rate was 75%.

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