Thailand’s ruling regime, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), looks ready to set aside its whistle and zebra stripes amid chatter that the country is about to take tentative steps towards limited democracy, with an election looming as early as next February.

Former Royal Thai Army General and Thailand’s current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha has publicly expressed willingness to shed his military uniform and don a business suit for the campaign trail. Critics have speculated that the election might be pushed back—after all, it’s already been postponed four times—but the government insists that Thais will go to the polls in 2019.

Prayut came to power following a coup against Yingluck Shinawatra’s caretaker government in 2014. He repealed the country’s constitution and established the NCPO with himself in the top spot. Now, as the country appears to be on its way to its first election in five years, Prayut, who retired from his army chief post in October 2014, seems ready to pivot towards partisan politics. He has yet to be nominated by any political party, but the newly-formed Palang Pracharat Party has already attracted four of his cabinet members, and is actively recruiting a leader. It’s been widely speculated that the prime minister will join the party and run in the next election to legitimise his four-year iron-fisted rule with a mandate from the Thai people.

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Adam Bemma

Adam Bemma is a Canadian journalist, media trainer and media development advisor based in Bangkok, Thailand.