Paetongtarn tipped as candidate for PM
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Paetongtarn tipped as candidate for PM

Analysis: Thaksin's youngest daughter is shaping up to be a key part of the Pheu Thai Party's election bid

Paetongtarn Shinawatra
Paetongtarn Shinawatra

All eyes are on whether Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the youngest daughter of fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, will be named as a candidate for prime minister in the next general election after she was put in charge of a campaign aimed at promoting unity in the Pheu Thai Party.

At a party meeting in Udon Thani on Sunday, Ms Paetongtarn, 35, was named as the head of the "Pheu Thai Family" campaign and vowed to help the party win an overwhelming victory in the election and form a government.

On Oct 28 last year, she was appointed the Pheu Thai Party's chief adviser on participation and innovation during its general assembly in Khon Kaen.

The introduction of Ms Paetongtarn fits into Pheu Thai's policy of bringing in someone from the younger generation as a driving force to work with the party's veteran politicians, observers said.

Phichai Ratnatilaka Na Bhuket, a political scientist at the National Institute of Development Administration, told the Bangkok Post that Pheu Thai's latest campaign led by Ms Paetongtarn is another step to assert itself politically and it is very likely that she will be named as a candidate for prime minister in the next election.

The party's "Pheu Thai family" slogan is designed for a campaign aimed at winning the election by a landslide so to form a single-party government, Mr Phichai said. The campaign is also aimed at bringing former party members who broke away or defected to other parties into the party's fold, though the campaign can also be construed as a bid to consolidate the power of the Shinawatra family, Mr Phichai said.

"I don't think the campaign will fit in with the mindset of new-generation people. With the family concept, which is quite conservative, it will be difficult for the party to gather support from them. The younger generation is inclined to believe in individualism rather than the concept of family," Mr Phichai said.

"Pheu Thai is contradicting itself. While it is trying to bring in the younger generation, it has now adopted this concept," he said.

The party's support base is made up mainly of people in rural areas, particularly in the Northeast and if the party wants to win a landslide victory in the next poll, it must seek the support of both older and young generations.

But the party is unlikely to win more than 250 House seats if it sticks to this concept, he said.

"However, I believe Pheu Thai will come out on top with the most votes in the next poll, though it must ally itself with other parties, such as the Bhumjaithai. If Pheu Thai and its allies can muster at least 375 MPs, they can form a government for sure," Mr Phichai said.

Wanwichit Boonprong, a political science lecturer at Rangsit University, shared the view that Ms Paetongtarn is tipped to be named as a candidate for prime minister in the next election. The latest campaign is a bid to restore confidence in the party, particularly among those who may want to leave the party. The introduction of Ms Paetongtarn is also intended to woo the younger generation, Mr Wanwichit said.

"This may be Pheu Thai's final battle. If Ms Paetongtarn is named as a prime ministerial candidate, this means the party may not be able to find others who are qualified for the candidacy," he said.

However, it will be hard for Pheu Thai to win a landslide in the next election partly because the party's major support base in the Northeast will be undermined by other parties, particularly Bhumjaithai, which will give Pheu Thai a run for its money in the next election in the region, Mr Wanwichit said.

Moreover, many voters in Bangkok feel that Pheu Thai is an asset that belongs to the Shinawatra family, which makes it difficult for the party to gain recognition from Bangkok residents, Mr Wanwichit said.

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