Thai PM Srettha Thavisin’s Approval Ratings Dip to New Low

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Thai PM Srettha Thavisin’s Approval Ratings Dip to New Low

The latest NIDA survey also saw the opposition Move Forward Party extend its lead as the country’s most popular party.

Thai PM Srettha Thavisin’s Approval Ratings Dip to New Low

Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin greets supporters during a visit to Surin province, Thailand, June 30, 2024.

Credit: Facebook/เศรษฐา ทวีสิน – Srettha Thavisin

The popularity of Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin has hit a new low, while the opposition Move Forward Party has moved in the opposite direction, extending its lead as the most popular in the country.

In its latest quarterly opinion survey, released yesterday, the National Institute of Development Administration (NIDA) found that Srettha’s approval rating sat at a lowly 12.85 percent, down from 17.75 percent in the first quarter and 22.35 percent late last year. The NIDA survey was conducted on June 14-18 and involved 2,000 Thai adults.

The issue extends beyond perceptions of Srettha, a former property developer who took office in September at the head of a sprawling, 11-party coalition. Support for Srettha’s Pheu Thai Party also slumped from 22.1 percent to 16.85 percent, while just 4.85 percent of respondents said that the party’s chair Paetongtarn Shinawatra, the daughter of party patriarch Thaksin Shinawatra, was their preferred choice for prime minister, down from 6 percent in the previous survey.

Pirapan Salirathavibhaga of the conservative United Thai Nation Party also saw his popularity almost double from 3.55 percent to 6.85 percent, while around a fifth of correspondents said that they did not see a candidate worthy of their support.

The biggest winner in the latest NIDA survey, however, was the opposition Move Forward Party (MFP), which was the preferred party of 49.2 percent of respondents, a slight increase from three months ago. Meanwhile, the party’s chief advisor Pita Limjaroenrat, the party’s prime ministerial candidate ahead of last year’s election, was the most popular choice for prime minister with 45.5 percent of the voting, also a slight increase from 42.75 percent in the last survey.

The MFP won last year’s election, but was subsequently blocked from forming government by the military-appointed Senate. Pheu Thai, which came second in the May 2023 poll, attempted to form a coalition with the MFP and then opted for a coalition of convenience with a host of conservative and military-aligned parties – the very forces that it had opposed for more than 15 years.

The contrasting fortunes of Pheu Thai and the MFP appear to reflect what many observers of Thai politics predicted at the time: by joining hands with parties aligned with the military and traditional political establishment, Pheu Thai ran the risk of losing supporters who viewed the party as a force of democratic principle.

Pheu Thai seems to have gambled that despite compromising with the establishment in order to regain control of government and secure the return of Thaksin from self-exile, the party could deliver enough substantial improvements to the Thai economy to offset any loss of support. However, the party’s performance has been lackluster, and Srettha’s frequent trips abroad – part of his attempt to attract foreign investment to the country – has been roundly criticized. Meanwhile, the MFP’s refusal to compromise its principles in order to win a junior position in government has seen its popularity steadily grow over the past year.

In a separate survey conducted in early June, NIDA found high levels of dissatisfaction with Srettha’s government. About 66 percent of participants in that poll said that they were either “not very satisfied” or “not satisfied at all” by the coalition government’s performance, according to the June 4-5 survey. Almost 71 percent said that they were not confident about the ability of Srettha’s government to solve the country’s problems.

Low approval ratings may be the least of Srettha’s problems. His term in office threatens to be cut short by a legal challenge, filed in the Constitutional Court by military-appointed senators who claim that Srettha’s appointment to his cabinet of Pichit Chuenban, a lawyer with a past conviction, violated the Constitution. The next hearing in the case will be held on July 10.

The MFP, too, is under a shadow, with a separate Constitutional Court case in motion that could see it disbanded and its senior leaders banned from politics for a decade. The complaint filed by the Election Commission seeks the dissolution of the party over the MFP’s campaign promise to amend the country’s lese-majeste law, which criminalizes any criticisms of the monarchy or royal family. The Constitutional Court has already ruled that the MFP’s reform promise amounted to an attempt to overthrow Thailand’s political system. The court will convene its next hearing on Wednesday.