On March 24, 2019, Thailand goes to the polls after five years of military rule. For most of that time, Thais lived with strict controls on political gatherings and free speech that tamed the kingdom’s polarized politics and ensured a smooth Royal succession. Now that the new king is in place, will the military step aside? Will the party of the exiled Shinawatra siblings -- who won every free election since 2001 -- find a way back to power? Or will new faces emerge to lead Thailand?
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As Thais prepare to vote Sunday in their country’s first parliamentary election after five years of military rule, the junta has tried everything to prolong its hold on power but remains concerned about the outcome.
After five previous postponements Thailand's National Council on Peace and Order (NCPO) has potentially delayed elections yet again, although the country's military rulers had promised to hold polls within two and a half years of seizing power through a May 2014 coup d’etat. Expectations were high that elections would proceed following the lifting of a ban on political parties on Dec. 11, 2018.
Four years ago, members of the Royal Thai Army seized power in their second bloodless coup in eight years, convinced that deep societal and political cleavages were an existential threat.