The Pheu Thai Party is likely to come out on top with the most votes in the next general election but a win does not guarantee the party will succeed in forming a government, according to political scientists.
The experts expressed their views as political parties -- especially the two major parties, Pheu Thai and Palang Pracharath (PPRP) -- gear up for the general election tentatively scheduled to take place early next year.
Pheu Thai has made Paetongtarn Shinawatra, a daughter of ex-prime minister Thaksin, the figurehead of the newly created "Pheu Thai Family" concept. Last month she announced in Udon Thani during her campaign launch that Pheu Thai would win a landslide victory in the next election and that she wanted to see regime change in Thailand.
While on Sunday, PPRP secretary-general Santi Promphat announced that the party has set a target of at least 150 seats in the House of Representatives at the next general election.
Mr Santi was speaking after being confirmed as secretary-general at a party general assembly in Nakhon Ratchasima.
The main opposition party won the most seats in the 2019 general election, but it was the PPRP which came second that wooed the Democrat and Bhumjaithai parties to its side and bested the Pheu Thai-led alliance for selection of the prime minister.
Phichai Ratnatilaka Na Bhuket, a political science lecturer at the National Institute of Development Administration, said under the two-ballot system to be introduced in the next poll, the Pheu Thai Party has a greater chance of winning the most votes.
Its popularity stands at 23%, while that of the PPRP has dropped from 12%-13% to 7%-8%. Moreover, with Pheu Thai policies seeming to strike a chord with voters and if its prime ministerial candidate has strong connections with its former leader, the party can draw a lot of votes.
"If Pheu Thai MPs in the northeastern and northern regions do not defect to other parties, the Pheu Thai Party is expected to retain its support base and win the majority of seats," he said.
However, Mr Phichai said the number of seats it captures is just one variable in forming a government.
"Looking at various factors, the odds of winning the election favour the Pheu Thai Party but forming a government depends on other variables. In terms of the number of MPs, its chances are strong, but the Senate is also a variable. If it captures 200-250 seats and has support from other parties, it will stand a chance," he said.
Jade Donavanik, a former adviser to the Constitution Drafting Committee and dean of the law faculty at Dhurakij Pundit University, said it remains to be seen if the Pheu Thai Party and the ruling PPRP can achieve their goals at the next poll.
The main opposition party aims to score a landslide victory while the PPRP has set its sights on capturing at least 150 House seats.
The academic said policy platforms, prime ministerial candidates and post-election potential political alliances are also key factors when people cast their votes.
The new composition of party-list and constituency MPs and the rising popularity of medium-sized parties such as the Bhumjaithai Party and the Move Forward Party could also affect Pheu Thai's and the PPRP's fortunes, he said.
Mr Jade expects the Pheu Thai Party to win more seats than in the 2019 polls. The party outperformed the PPRP in the last election despite fielding candidates in only 250 out of 350 constituencies.
"As for its chances of leading the next government, let's see how the Senate decides. I think it's the county's largest party. If it doesn't want any problems, the Pheu Thai Party should be able to form a government," he said.
He said the military is also another variable and a coup may take place if a Pheu Thai-led government is seen as a problem.
Wanwichit Boonprong, a political science lecturer at Rangsit University, further observed it is possible for the PPRP to win more seats than in the previous poll following the appointment of new executive members at a general assembly in Nakhon Ratchasima last weekend.