The frontrunner in Thailand’s upcoming national elections gave birth to a son on Monday, just two weeks before the polls open.
Paetongtarn Shinawatra, whose father and aunt have both previously served as prime minister in the politically turbulent kingdom, shared a photo on Instagram of herself, her husband and their newborn second child. In the caption, she introduced the baby as Pluenkthasinsuksawat, nicknamed Thasin.
Paetongtarn will meet with the press in a few days after recovering, the caption added.
Pluenkthasinsuksawat’s birth comes just two weeks before the general election on May 14.
The vote has been framed as a showdown between Paetongtarn, whose billionaire Shinawatra family dominates the largest opposition Pheu Thai party, and incumbent Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, head of a pro-military conservative grouping.
Prayut is a former army chief who in 2014 seized power from the Pheu Thai government, after Paetongtarn’s aunt Yingluck was removed from power in a controversial court ruling.
Paetongtarn’s father, Thaksin, was also ousted from power by a military coup in 2006 and accused of corruption. Facing a potential prison sentence, he went into self-imposed exile.
In a tweet on Monday, Thaksin said he was “delighted” about the birth of his grandson – his seventh grandchild.
“All of my seven grandchildren were born while I had to stay abroad,” he wrote. “I may ask for permission to return to take care of my grandchildren, since I am almost 74 years old this coming July.”
Apart from Paetongtarn, 36, property tycoon Srettha Thavisin and former justice minister Chaikasem Nitisiri are also vying for the prime minister spot as Pheu Thai party candidates.
So far, Paetongtarn appears to be leading the pack. A pre-election opinion poll conducted with 2,000 participants by the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) showed strong support for Paetongtarn.
She was the most popular choice for prime minister, the NIDA survey found, receiving “more than double the support” of her rivals – the incumbent Prime Minister Prayut and Pita Limjaroenrat from the progressive Forward Party.
The vote in May will be Thailand’s first since youth-led mass pro-democracy protests in 2020 made unprecedented demands to curb the powers of both the monarchy and the military.
In Thailand, where the monarchy is deeply revered and insulting the king is a crime punishable by years in prison, such calls broke long-held taboos and shook the establishment.
Yet Paetongtarn’s party faces a greater obstacle than merely winning the most votes from the public. Political parties allied to Thaksin have won the most seats in every election since 2001, yet have struggled to hold on to power due to the military exerting its influence – whether through coups or other means.
This year’s election will see some 52 million eligible voters elect 500 members to the lower house in Thailand’s bicameral system. But under a constitution drafted by the military following the last coup, the 250-seat senate – which is stacked with allies of the military establishment – is also able to influence who becomes the next prime minister.