Thailand will soon hold its first election since the military seized power in a 2014 coup and many hope the vote will return Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy to democracy. The government lifted a ban on political activity when it announced the Feb. 24 election last week, but critics say the junta has taken several steps to remain in power after the vote, casting doubt on how credible the poll will be. “We have seen a systematic manipulation and distortion of the electoral process, of the will of the people, starting from the constitution,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political analyst at Chulalongkorn University, referring to the military-drafted constitution that was publicly ratified in 2016, two years after the coup.
“The reason this (election) has a crooked feel more than others is because it pretends to be democratic, clean and fair when it is completely rigged,” Thitinan said.
The military government has denied accusations it has been engineering a path to prolong its stay in power.
“If the government wants to extend its power beyond this point then what would be the point of holding an election? This is the roadmap that we have promised to the people,” said government spokesman Puttipong Punnakan.