Huge surge to pro-Thaksin party falls short of majority – World –


Supporters  … Thaksin Shinawatra's children, from left, Phantongtae, Pinthongta and Paethongtan, vote in Bangkok.

Supporters … Thaksin Shinawatra’s children, from left, Phantongtae, Pinthongta and Paethongtan, vote in Bangkok.
Photo: AFP

Connie Levett in Bangkok
December 24, 2007

THE pro-Thaksin People Power Party fell short of an absolute majority in yesterday’s Thai election but voters sent a strong rebuff to the coup leaders who overturned democratic rule last year.

With counting still under way, People Power was set to win between 210 and 220 seats in the 480-seat parliament. Its nearest rivals the Democrats had about 160 seats in hand. The military junta wants the Democrats to form a coalition government with other smaller parties, and while this is still technically possible, People Power has the clearest mandate to form government.

The party was set up as a proxy after the Thai Rak Thai party of the deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was dissolved and 111 members of the executive including Thaksin banned from politics for five years. At a People Power rally on Friday it was announced Thaksin would return on February 14 if the party won.

While People Power swept the north-east, Thaksin’s old stronghold, as expected, the Democrats did hang on in Bangkok, looking likely to win 26 of the 36 constituency seats. Last week polling suggested they might also be defeated in the capital.

The prime ministerial hopefuls presented very different demeanours yesterday as they cast their votes. Samak Sundaravej, 72, the head of People Power, was upbeat as he cast his vote in Moobaan Oran, on the eastern outskirts of Bangkok. As the results started to roll in late yesterday, Mr Samak confirmed to CNN that “we will bring Thaksin back and give an amnesty to the 111 if I get the premiership. I don’t believe there will be any coup.”

Earlier he had said: “Before the coup people liked Thaksin but after the coup people liked him even more. You don’t have to say it but you know people want Thaksin to come back.” Mr Thaksin remains in exile and was following the election from Hong Kong.

In contrast, the Democrats’ leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva, 43, looked tired and told reporters he was not allowed by law to speak about the election. However, before the poll he had warned the generals to let go of power.

“If the military and the Council for National Security [the junta] show any sign they want to hang on to power, the Democrats will be out there on the streets opposing them.”

King Bhumibol Adulyadej addressed newly appointed generals on Friday, calling for stability.

“The country now is still not in order. But you can restore the order and make it strong with your strength,” he said.

“You need to maintain this strength to ensure peace and make the country free from any possible damage.”

Voting is not compulsory but analysts expected at least 70 per cent of the 46 million eligible to vote would take part in the “return to democracy” election.

Thais face a new parliamentary equation, with a complex 480-seat formula. There are 400 seats comprised of one-, two- and three-member constituencies and 80 party list seats. The country is divided into eight regions for the party list seats, with 10 seats available in each region.

Previously, party list seats were distributed on a national vote count, so if a party won in a landslide it would make huge gains in the party list seats. The new system will help medium-sized parties with a strong regional power base.

Heading into the election, the Electoral Commission received 172 reports of wrongdoing, which will result in investigations in the coming week. If the election result is close, the commission’s investigations could delay the announcement of an outcome.

Huge surge to pro-Thaksin party falls short of majority – World –



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