BANGKOK: Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has gained ground on frontrunner Paetongtarn Shinawatra in a new survey on Thailand’s top choice for premier, which showed the former coup leader was the most popular choice in the capital Bangkok.

Political newcomer Paetongtarn, the daughter of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was backed by 28.5 per cent of the 1,571 respondents in the Feb 17-18 survey by Super Poll released on Monday (Feb 20), closely followed by Prayut on 25.7 per cent.

With an election due by May, the survey will be a boost for former army chief Prayut, 68, who garnered less than half of the support of Paetongtarn, 36, in polls since September by the National Institute of Development Administration.

The survey by Super Poll, a private research agency, showed Prayut as the top choice in Bangkok among a third of those surveyed, while Paetongtarn was picked by 21.3 per cent of respondents in the capital.

Paetongtarn was the choice of 29.9 per cent of Thais outside of Bangkok, compared with Prayut on 24.3 per cent.

The election will showcase the bitter rivalries at the heart of 17 years of on-and-off political tumult in Southeast Asia’s second-biggest economy.

Paetongtarn’s Pheu Thai party and its previous incarnations have won every election in the past two decades, drawing their main electoral strength from the populous, largely rural northeast of the country. But three of their governments have been removed from office, by military coups and court rulings.

Prayuth, who has switched to a new party, led the coup against the administration of Yingluck Shinawatra – Paetongtarn’s aunt – in 2014 and has been in power ever since.

Paetongtarn at the weekend told Reuters military intervention had made Thailand go backwards and said it was time for bigger reforms to address festering problems.



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