A year and a half ago the government of Taksin Shinawarta was overthrown by a bloodless military coop while he was out of the country. The military last year appointed a civilian Prime Minister, and promised elections, which didn’t materialize.
Up against increasing public disenchantment, elections are now due on December 23, and campaigning has begun in ernest. The 2 front-running parties are the Democrats, who opposed Taksin and are therefore more closely associated with the miltary, and the PPP. Taksin’s old party, the Thai Rak Thai, has been banned and membership in it is illegal, but the PPP is largely composed of its former officials. The Democrat’s support base is urban and southern, and the PPP’s is north-eastern and rural. Current polls suggest that the PPP is in the lead. So far there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of interest in the election, with voters feeling cynical and disenfranchised about the whole thing. The PPP especially is seen as practicing pork-barrel politics, and vote-buying in the countryside is common and accepted. Reports are that in some of the close ridings the price may be up to 1000B/vote (about $30). There is also talk that even if the PPP wins the election, the military won’t allow it to form a government.