Wed Dec 19, 2007 1:24am EST
(Reuters) – Thais vote on Sunday in an election meant to restore democracy and heal the rifts after a bloodless 2006 military coup but which looks set to prolong the deep political divisions of the last two years.
The People Power Party (PPP), which openly backs ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is expected to come first but fall short of an outright majority in the 480-seat parliament, meaning the next government will be a shaky coalition.
Following are various post-election scenarios garnered from analysts and published polls:
PPP WINS, DEMOCRATS FORM GOVERNMENT
– This is the outcome favored by the generals who booted out Thaksin, and the foreign investors who feel comfortable with the Democrats’ Eton- and Oxford-educated leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva.
Under this scenario, PPP wins 180-200 seats but the army and anti-Thaksin establishment work overtime behind the scenes to make sure it cannot pull together enough partners to make it to 241 — the total needed to form a government.
However, the Democrats, forecast to come second with 100-120 seats, manage to tie up with a host of middle-ground parties to form a coalition. Analysts do not see such a government lasting more than two years.
PPP WINS, PUSHES FOR A COALITION
– This is where the generals start to get nervous.
If PPP gets more than 200 seats, its chances of cajoling a middle-ground party into a coalition go up accordingly.
Knowing that a PPP-led administration will try to exact revenge for the coup, the army will try and stop any tie-ups, mainly by fostering allegations of electoral fraud against PPP candidates and their potential partners.
Some PPP candidates will be disqualified, but the red cards will be appealed in Thailand’s byzantine court system, where the arguments will drag on for months, preventing the formation of any government.
Breaking the deadlock will not be easy.
The Democrats could eventually cobble together a very weak coalition, judges could nullify the entire poll — as they did after a stymied April 2006 election — or the army could step in.
PPP WINS OUTRIGHT MAJORITY
– Although no polls suggest this is likely, PPP could win an outright majority and form a government on its own.
If so, the anti-Thaksin street protests that preceded the 2006 coup will restart, but be countered by major pro-Thaksin demonstrations.
To avert possible violence, the army will step in again, taking pains to paint its action as “in the interests of national unity”, not another coup.
It will then appoint another interim government, start drawing up another constitution, and Thailand will be back where it was in September 2006.
NATIONAL UNITY GOVERNMENT
– Echoing repeated calls for reconciliation from revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the exiled Thaksin has proposed a national unity government of politicians from all major parties.
The Democrats have made it clear they will never sit down with the PPP, but if the monarch renews his cries for unity, they could be forced to rethink.
(Compiled by Ed Cropley; editing by Michael Battye and Roger Crabb)
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