Thailand's Main Opposition Party Picks Leader

(Bloomberg) -- Thailand’s main opposition Pheu Thai Party picked acting head Viroj Pao-in as its leader ahead of a general election expected in 2019 after more than four years of military rule.

Viroj, a police lieutenant general, was the only name on the leadership ballot, the party said in a briefing on Sunday. The party added it will decide later if Viroj -- who was once a deputy prime minister in an earlier Thai administration -- will be its candidate for prime minister in the national poll.

A military government has been in power in Thailand since a coup in 2014 that ousted a Pheu Thai-led administration. Prayuth Chan-Ocha, the former army chief who seized power, has flagged Feb. 24 through to May as the window for holding the delayed general election. The current stretch of military rule is one of the longest since the 1970s, in a country with a history of army intervention.

Pheu Thai and other parties linked to Thaksin Shinawatra have won the past five elections, only to be unseated by the courts or the military. The discord reflects deep fissures in Thai society between urban royalists, known as the so-called yellow shirts, and Thaksin and his rural support base, the red shirts.

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