Tycoon’s Daughter Fails to Cash in Shinawatra Magic in Thai Vote

(Bloomberg) -- When Paetongtarn Shinawatra cast her ballot early on Sunday, the latest member of the influential Shinawatra family to join Thai politics exuded confidence in her Pheu Thai party securing a landslide win. By late evening, it became clear the reformist Move Forward party had outperformed it — the worst performance of her family-led party’s election bids.

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Here’s everything you need to know about the businesswoman-turned prime ministerial candidate.

Who is Paetongtarn Shinawatra?

At 36, she is the youngest daughter of Thailand’s most popular politician, Thaksin Shinawatra. He has been living in exile since 2008, two years after his government was toppled by the military in a coup. Paetongtarn ran as one of three prime ministerial candidates of the opposition Pheu Thai, which pledged a fresh start for Thailand after nearly a decade-long rule by the junta and a conservative, military-aligned party helmed by Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha. If she manages to land the top job in a possible coalition government, Paetongtarn will be Thailand’s youngest premier.

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What are Pheu Thai Party’s key policies?

With Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy lagging behind its neighbors on growth, Pheu Thai promised to supercharge GDP growth to 5% a year by skilling up workers and raising household incomes through billions of dollars worth of cash handouts.

Paetongtarn’s other promises included supporting a central bank digital currency and providing free medical care across Thailand, including free cervical cancer screening for women.

Why is the Shinawatra family a key player in Thai politics?

The Shinawatra dynasty has produced two prime ministers — though both their governments were disrupted by coups. Paetongtarn’s father Thaksin — an enduring yet polarizing figure in Thai politics whose term was marked by allegations of corruption — was unseated in 2006 and has been living abroad.

He still holds influence in the nation’s rural heartlands after introducing populist policies that endeared him to farmers and the poor. And some of that clout may be waning as seen in the election results on Sunday. Paetongtarn’s aunt, Yingluck Shinawatra, saw her government dissolved by the military in 2014.

Prior to her meteoric rise, Paetongtarn had a front-row seat to her father’s career. At eight years old, she tagged along with Thaksin on his first government job as foreign minister. At 20, she hunkered down in a safe house when military tanks patrolled Bangkok streets as the army seized power from her father. Two years later, she watched as her father left Thailand to avoid a corruption conviction he said was politically motivated.

What does her campaign run show about gender equality in Thailand?

The Thai candidate jumped back into the campaign trail shortly after giving birth to her second child on May 1. Days after her delivery, Paetongtarn showed off her baby to the press.

Suthadha Meghavongsagula of the Gender Equality Promotion Committee says Paetongtarn’s move is an exception to the norm in Thailand. “Not many working women in Thailand are able to do public service for society while still being wives and mothers at the same time,” she says.

Female politicians accounted for 16% of the lower house before it was dissolved and 10% of the Senate.

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