The former general has been in power since 2014 and is a member of the new United Thai Nation Party.
Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has accepted his party’s nomination as prime minister and is running for re-election in polls scheduled for May 14.
Prayuth, a 69-year-old former general, has pledged to create a new political climate that will end decades of conflict. He runs with the recently formed United Thai Nation Party.
The incumbent government, in power since 2014 when the military toppled a civilian government, provided five years of military-enforced stability.
But after being elected Thailand’s civic leader following the 2019 election, there were fresh outbreaks of violence as his government used heavy-handed measures to curb student-led pro-democracy demonstrations.
Party leader Pirapan Salirathavibhaga was nominated as the party’s second candidate for Prime Minister.
Thailand has been grappling with political instability since 2006, when the military staged a coup to overthrow the government of populist Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Prayuth is likely to face Paetongtarn Shinawatra of the Pheu Thai party, daughter and niece of two former prime ministers from the billionaire family.
Thailand’s election will be a showdown between an elite establishment and pro-democracy forces that have dominated politics in the Southeast Asian country for decades.
Prayuth’s path back to the top looks challenging. Opinion polls placed him far behind Shinawatra, as well as a Progressive party candidate.
Populist parties linked to Thaksin have won the most seats in every election since 2001.
Prayuth is also challenged by Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan, who is known as a formidable political operator.
The former army comrades recently drifted apart. Prayuth joined the United Thai Nation party and Prawit stayed with Palang Pracharath, the largest party in the governing coalition.
The prime minister is not elected directly by popular vote, but is elected by a joint session of both houses of parliament.
The 250-seat upper house, or Senate, will likely vote as a bloc in favor of a conservative candidate. In 2019, the Senate unanimously supported Prayuth.
The military veteran may be trailing rivals in polls, but hopes to win over supporters with pledges to care for the people’s welfare, improve the country’s stability and protect the monarchy.
“We will create a new political climate,” Prayuth said in a speech to 1,000 supporters at a convention center on the outskirts of Bangkok on Saturday, less than a week after he dissolved parliament to set the May 14 election date.
“We will have policies that address the problems of the people and the country, and most importantly – and I just need to say one word, I don’t need to expand or anything – we will put conflict behind us,” he said.
“We can’t have any more conflict,” he said. “In the decades that have passed, there have been problems. Do not forget. Have no short-term memory. We cannot let it happen again.”