With the election of its first female premier, Thailand begins a new era.
Following a landslide victory in Sunday’s election, Yingluck Shinawatra represents a chance for Thailand to establish peace after six years of violent political upheaval, as well as a step forward for female politicians in Thailand.
Woman at the Helm
Shinawatra, a 44-year-old businesswoman and a mother of one child, had never held public office but ran a polished campaign that won over much of Thailand’s public. Before entering the political arena, she was the capable and well-respected president of the Thai real estate firm SC Asset Company.
Female Politicians Fall Behind
Earlier this year, research revealed that Thailand has the greatest percentage of women in senior management positions than any other country: 45% compared with the global average of 20%. Shinawatra, a successful businesswoman, illustrates this statistic. But female politicians are few and far between: In Thailand, men have historically dominated local and national politics. Shinawatra's election as the first female prime minister can be seen as a mark of progress for Thai women.
A New Role Model
“I will utilize my femininity to work fully for our country,” Shinawatra said during a party meeting in Bangkok, and her feminine charms indeed aided her campaign. Admirers applauded her grace and respectful treatment of the public, as well as her devotion to her nine-year-old son, Pipe, who occasionally appeared with her at election rallies.
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Some critics still believe that, despite her victory in the elections, Shinawatra remains under the thumb of men—namely, her fugitive brother and ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who allegedly controls the Puea Thai party from abroad. Nevertheless, Yingluck Shinawatra's success as a businesswoman, and her skillful handling of her victorious campaign, mark her as a woman to watch.