The Election Commission has set the general election for Sunday May 14, with advanced voting a week earlier on Sunday May 7.
The EC announced the date for the polls on Tuesday, one day after the dissolution of the House of Representatives, after the commissioners approved the proposed timeline.
Dates for application for registration of constituency candidates are from April 3 to 7, at specified locations.
From April 4 to 7, party-list candidates will file their registration applications and political parties will nominate their candidates for prime minister at City Hall in Din Daeng district of Bangkok.
Eligible citizens who want to take advantage of advance voting can register their intention from March 27 to April 13.
Those who are unable to cast their votes can report their intended absence and the reason from May 7 to 13 and from May 15 to 21.
"It's time to move forward, towards the elections," Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, celebrating his 69th birthday, told reporters earlier in the day, adding that his cabinet was still governing in a caretaker capacity.
Unofficial campaigning has been under way for weeks, with parties focusing on economic issues as they seek the support of some 52 million voters. They are now ratcheting up their efforts.
The opposition Pheu Thai party is expected to hold daily events across the country, featuring seven-months-pregnant Paetongtarn Shinawatra, who has topped opinion polls as a potential candidate for premier.
In the latest National Institute of Development Administration (Nida) poll published on Sunday, 49.75% of the 2,000 respondents said they would vote for Pheu Thai. Only two other parties polled double digits: Move Forward at 17.4% and Gen Prayut’s United Thai Nation at 11.75%. The coalition-leader Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) was far down the list at just over 2%.
Among those preferred for prime minister, Ms Paetongtarn topped the table at 38.2%, followed by Pita Limjaroenrat of Move Forward at 15.75% and Gen Prayut at 15.65%. PPRP leader Gen Prawit Wongsuwon is lumped in with numerous “Others” who collectively received 3.3%.
Candidates for the 400 constituency seats in the next House of Representatives must register between April 3 and 7, the EC said. Parties will also need to finalise their candidates for the 100 party-list seats between April 4 and 7.
Parties must also submit a list of their prime ministerial nominees to the EC by April 7. After the May 14 polls, the newly elected members of the House of Representatives and the military-appointed Senate will jointly pick the next prime minister from a list of candidates submitted by the parties.
The new leader must win the backing of at least 376 lawmakers and senators, or more than half of the combined chambers’ 750 votes.
The coming election could inject as much as 120 billion baht into the economy as parties step up their campaigns, the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce (UTCC) said on Tuesday.
“This election is likely to see a fierce competition and intense campaigning. Money will spread very quickly, going into every constituency,” UTCC president Thanavath Phonvichai said.
The economy is expected to grow by 3% to 4% this year, factoring in a boost of 0.5 to 0.7 of a percentage point from spending of 100 billion to 120 billion baht expected during April and May, he said.
While the tourism sector is driving the economy, political stability after the election will also be key, he added.
The university’s survey showed the business sector is worried about the negative impact on the economy if the election results in fresh conflict and instability, Mr Thanavath said.
“Concerns over the forming of a new government will put both domestic and foreign investors in wait-and-see mode in the second and third quarters,” he added.
The private sector hopes the caretaker administration will continue budget disbursements to support the economy until the new government is formed, he said.