Last week’s election of Mr Srettha Thavisin as Prime Minister of Thailand has brought hopes of a return to political stability. The turmoil that followed May’s national election caused a leadership vacuum that set back the economy. In the weeks that followed, Parliament twice failed to select the leader of the popular Move Forward Party as the next prime minister. The party faced a backlash from the royalist military establishment over its pledge to make changes to a law forbidding criticism of the monarchy. The choice of Mr Srettha, a real estate tycoon, means the monarchy will face less scrutiny in Parliament, and his pro-business focus will be a relief to investors. He flew to Phuket on his first official trip in a show of support for the tourism industry, a mainstay of the economy. Political turmoil and weak global trade have hurt Thailand’s economy, which expanded just 1.8 per cent year on year in the April-June period.
Apart from economic concerns, Mr Srettha faces plenty of other challenges, not the least of which is that he is a political novice. He entered politics a few months ago and has no experience in government. In the coming days, he must pick a Cabinet from an 11-party alliance that includes members backed by the royalist military, the very group that has tried to undermine his Pheu Thai Party. He also faces voter anger over Pheu Thai’s decision to ditch its alliance with the Move Forward Party and tie up with two military-backed parties.
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