September will sizzle with political intrigue in Thailand. The prime minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, has announced that his military government will shortly begin discussions with political parties about restoring democracy. Every year since his junta came to power in a coup in 2014, it has promised—and failed—to hold an election. This time it may actually keep its word. The tentative date is February 24th. Mr Prayuth has also said that he will declare in the coming month whether he intends to remain in politics, and if so which party he will join. This is in spite of the fact that he previously insisted that he would neither support any particular political tribe nor run for office himself.
The constitution enacted by the junta 16 months ago deliberately weakens big political parties, notably by introducing a new system of proportional representation for elections. A series of laws passed since then further constricts political life. All this will help to ensure that only a chaotic coalition emerges from an election, whenever it is held.
The intention is to thwart the political allies of Thaksin Shinawatra, a tycoon and former prime minister. The government overthrown by the junta in 2014 was led by his sister. Mr Thaksin himself was toppled by an earlier coup, in 2006. The conflict between Mr Thaksin’s “red shirts” and the “yellow shirts” of conservative elites has defined Thai politics for almost two decades. Political groups linked to Mr Thaksin have won all six elections since 2001. The generals want to prevent that ever happening again.