Factbox-Parties contesting Thailand's election
By Chayut Setboonsarng
(Reuters) - Thailand goes to the polls on Sunday to elect 500 members for its House of Representatives. Below are the major parties vying for seats and the chance to form a government.
UNITED THAI NATION PARTY (RUAM THAI SANG CHART)
The recently formed vehicle of incumbent Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, UTN's motto is "have done, doing and will keep doing" - to highlight the retired general's policies in the past eight years.
Prayuth as army chief seized power from a civilian government in 2014 and led a junta until he was chosen as prime minister by a new legislature after a 2019 election.
UTN espouses conservative values and vows to protect the monarchy and is targeting the urban middle class and voters in the south. Its campaign promises include monthly allowances for the elderly and lower electricity bills.
If chosen again as premier, Prayuth can only serve two years as he will reach an eight-year limit for prime ministers.
UTN placed a distant third and fourth in two of the latest polls.
PALANG PRACHARAT PARTY
Prayuth's former party Palang Pracharat is the biggest in the ruling coalition and was the vehicle of the junta in the 2019 election. It has fared poorly in polls, placing seventh and eighth last week.
It relied heavily on state institutions, many led by people selected by the military, to ensure it stayed in power, including the appointed Senate, which has a big say in determining who forms a government.
With Prayuth switching parties, Palang Pracharat's prime ministerial candidate is his former military mentor, Prawit Wongsuwan, 77, a deputy premier from the same armed forces academy class who was a key player in Prayuth's junta.
Prawit has gone to great efforts to present himself as a compromising figure able to bridge a divide between the conservative and progressive camps in a lengthy battle that he has been very much part of. The party's slogan is "overcoming conflict".
The two generals insist there is no animosity between them. An alliance between their parties is considered likely.
Palang Pracharat is promising generous handouts to the elderly and the poor, especially farmers.
BHUMJAITHAI PARTY (PROUD TO BE THAI)
Via its stronghold in the lower northeast, Bhumjaithai has consistently won enough parliamentary seats to be key in determining who forms a government, giving it bargaining power for posts in cabinet and on committees.
It is best known for decriminalising cannabis, but critics say this was done too quickly and without regulations in place. Bhumjaithai supports medical cannabis and has vowed to push for tighter regulation. The party's slogan is "we say it and we do it".
Bhumjaithai is led by construction tycoon Anutin Charnvirakul, a deputy premier who was health minister in charge of the COVID-19 response.
THE DEMOCRAT PARTY
Thailand's oldest political party has faded of late having once been among the two biggest parties, including several stints in office leading coalition governments.
Its support base remains in the south and the party has struggled to recoup lost support in Bangkok. Leader Jurin Laksanawisit, currently commerce minister, is aiming to revitalise the party and regain lost seats. Recent polls suggest that might be difficult.
PHEU THAI PARTY (FOR THAIS)
Pheu Thai party is backed by the billionaire Shinawatra family and polls say it is likely to win the most seats, as it has in every vote since 2001, including twice in landslides.
Two Shinawatra prime ministers - Thaksin and sister Yingluck - were both forced from power and live in self-imposed exile.
Its candidates for prime minister include Paethongtarn Shinawatra, Thaksin's youngest daughter, and real estate mogul Srettha Thavisin. Both have limited political experience.
Pheu Thai draws its support from the rural and urban working class, particularly in the north and northeast, a base it cultivated for two decades with village loans, cheap healthcare, free tablet computers for students and price support for rice farmers.
While hugely popular, it has powerful establishment enemies, some with influence in key institutions and the politicised military. Previous incarnations of the party were dissolved by courts and two of its governments ousted in coups.
MOVE FORWARD PARTY (KAO KLAI)
The progressive opposition Move Forward is popular with young voters and known for its big rallies and creative social media campaigning. It has been enjoying a late surge in polls, reflecting the appeal of its Harvard-educated leader, Pita Limjaroenrat, 42.
Move Forward has ambitions for change, such as decentralising power, election of provincial governors, dismantling monopolies, and reducing the role of the military in politics. It also wants to end army conscription and amend a royal insult law that prescribes punishments of up to 15 years.
Opinion polls have the party coming in second. Its motto is "Choose Kao Klai, change Thailand together".
(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng; Editing by Martin Petty, Robert Birsel)