Yingluck Shinawatra’s nomination by the Puea Thai party makes her the first woman to run for the top job, and confirms Thaksin’s centrality in the kingdom’s political landscape.
“I am ready to fight according to the rules and I ask for the opportunity to prove myself. I ask for your trust as you used to trust my brother,” she told a party meeting in Bangkok, attended by reporters.
“I will utilise my femininity to work fully for our country.”
Although he lives abroad to escape a jail term for graft, Thaksin — who was ousted in a 2006 coup — is widely considered the de facto leader of the Puea Thai party, underscored by his politically inexperienced sister’s nomination.
Thaksin is hailed by many rural and working class Thais for his populist policies for the masses but loathed by the Bangkok-based elite, which sees him as corrupt, authoritarian and a threat to the revered monarchy.
The election on July 3 will pit his sister against his arch-foe, current Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of the elite-backed Democrat Party, in what is expected to be a closely fought battle.
At 43, the glamorous businesswoman and mother-of-one Yingluck is three years younger than her rival Abhisit and — as the youngest of the nine Shinawatra siblings — 18 years junior to Thaksin.
Parties linked to Thaksin have won the most seats in the past four elections, but since the former tycoon’s ouster five years ago, court rulings have reversed the results of the last two polls.
Puea Thai is particularly strong in the rural north and northeast, with wide support among the anti-government Red Shirts, whose mass rallies in the capital last year led to Thailand’s worst political unrest in decades.
The Reds were calling for snap polls to oust Abhisit, who they accuse of being an unelected puppet of the army and the establishment, taking office in a 2008 parliamentary vote after a court threw out the previous government.
A year on from an army crackdown on the Reds’ protests, during which more than 90 people were killed in clashes between demonstrators and armed forces, Thailand remains deeply divided.
Oxford-educated Abhisit’s party, Thailand’s oldest, draws most of its support from Bangkok and the south but it has not won a general election in nearly two decades.