BANGKOK (Reuters) - Thailand's political parties have nominated prime ministerial candidates ahead of a May 14 election, which will showcase a long-running battle between the billionaire Shinawatra family and parties backed by a conservative pro-military establishment.
Below are key contenders for the next premier, which should be decided by August in a vote by the newly elected lower house and the Senate, a chamber appointed by the military after its coup in 2014.
As a prime minister and a junta chief, the former army commander has led Thailand for nearly nine years since he ousted Yingluck Shinawatra's government in 2014.
He was elected prime minister in 2019 to lead a multi-party coalition and if chosen again, he can only serve half a term as he will have reached the maximum eight years permitted.
Prayuth, 69, has been unpopular in opinion polls and was third and fourth respectively in surveys released last week. He is running with the new, conservative United Thai Nation Party.
The daughter and niece respectively of ousted, self-exiled former prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra, Paetongtarn, 36, led most surveys this year but has fallen into second in several polls.
She took a short leave from campaigning to have her second child last week.
Running in her first election, she has been campaigning in the vote-rich rural strongholds of her main opposition Pheu Thai party, promising populist policies like a big increase in the minimum wage.
Best known by her nickname, "Ung Ing", Paetongtarn has served as an executive at a real estate firm and is the biggest shareholder in another developer, SC Asset.
The 42-year-old is leader of the progressive opposition Move Forward party - the only one pushing for amendments to a strict royal insult law that punishes offenders with up to 15 years in jail.
A Harvard alumnus and former executive director of ride-hailing and food delivery app Grab in Thailand, his other policies include promoting small business, curbing monopolies and ending military conscription.
The party's supporters are mostly younger voters who have been flocking to its rallies and giving Pita a late surge in opinion polls.
Health Minister Anutin oversaw COVID-19 lockdowns, treatment and vaccine procurement and was criticised for calling it "just a flu". He has been praised for restarting tourism through a vaccinated travel programme.
His Bhumjaithai party delivered on a 2019 campaign promise to decriminalise and promote medical cannabis. However, that led to a rise in recreational use, upsetting conservatives and prompting Anutin, 56, to take a tougher stance against other drugs.
Srettha, 60, quit his job recently as the chief executive of luxury real estate developer Sansiri Pcl and is another of Pheu Thai's prime ministerial candidates. Srettha's name on the ticket, analysts say, balances out Paetongtarn's perceived inexperience, despite having little exposure to politics himself.
He is known for sharing his views on Twitter and is popular with the business community and could be a more palatable figure for voters wary of the Shinawatra family's political dominance.
A former army chief and current deputy premier, Prawit, 77, is a nominee for prime minister for the Palang Pracharat party following ally Prayuth's departure. Prawit is a staunch royalist from the same military clique as Prayuth, and served in his junta.
He is seen as a seasoned political dealmaker and has positioned himself as a candidate who can bridge the divide between conservatives and democratic forces. Despite low rating in polls, his connections and influence mean he should not be ruled out as a premier if deals need to be struck to form a government.
(Reporting by Chayut Setboonsarng and Panarat Thepgumpanat; Editing by Kanupriya Kapoor, Martin Petty)