Former Premier’s Party Wins Thai Vote

New York Times

 

BANGKOK — A party that backs former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra won a parliamentary election on Sunday, defeating a party backed by the generals who ousted him in a coup 15 months ago.

Skip to next paragraph

Related

However Vote Goes, Tense Future Looms for Thailand

Enlarge This Image

Pornchai Kittiwongsak/Agence France-Presse

Samak Sundaravej, the leader of the People Power Party, at a press conference in Bangkok on Sunday.

 

 

 

Narong Sangnak/European Pressphoto

At a recent rally for the People Power Party, participants wore masks bearing the likeness of the ousted prime minister, Thaksin Shinawatra, still a popular and controversial figure in Thailand.

The election result was a repudiation of the generals, who had worked hard to discredit Mr. Thaksin and neutralize his supporters. But the shape of the next government remained in question.

With 95 percent of the votes counted, the pro-Thaksin People Power Party had won 228 of the 480 seats in Parliament, less than a majority but enough to try to form a coalition government.

The Democrat Party, backed by the generals and the political establishment, won 166 seats.

The strong showing means that Mr. Thaksin and his supporters will remain a force in Thai politics whether or not they form a government, and ensures that a struggle for power will continue in this deeply divided country.

The military and political establishment oppose the pro-Thaksin party, known as the P.P.P., meaning that other parties might come under intense pressure not to join it in a coalition.

“It’s quite clear that P.P.P. in the next few days will try to form a government,” said Panitan Wattanayagorn, a political analyst at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok. “But their legitimacy will be challenged by the Democrats and other parties.”

The P.P.P. leader, Samak Sundaravej, said that he had received congratulations by telephone from Mr. Thaksin and that he had already approached smaller parties to discuss forming a coalition government. One message of the vote, he said, is that if anyone is thinking of staging another coup, “Please think carefully.”

The P.P.P. said during the campaign that it would bring Mr. Thaksin back from his self-exile in London, where he is believed to have remained politically active behind the scenes.

The leader of the Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva, conceded defeat, saying: “Now it is the duty of the leaders of the P.P.P. to invite other parties to form a government. And it is the right of other party leaders to make a decision on what is the best for the country.”

He added, “If the P.P.P. is unable to form a government, the Democrat Party is ready to take the lead and form a government.”

However, analysts said the win was not as overwhelming as it at first appeared, noting that the Democrat Party seemed to have won in the most crucial area, Bangkok. And the vote was close on slates of candidates listed by their party affiliations.

During the rule of the junta, a court disbanded Mr. Thaksin’s former party, Thai Rak Thai, for election irregularities and barred him and 110 other party executives from politics for five years. The P.P.P. said it would pardon them all; under Thailand’s election laws, though, Mr. Thaksin could not become prime minister in the current government because he would not be an elected member of Parliament.

The vote was seen as part of a long-running clash of cultures that became acute during Mr. Thaksin’s six years in power. With a broad array of populist programs, he mobilized the electoral power of the country’s rural majority, threatening the traditional domination of an established elite that includes the bureaucracy and military.

“I voted for Thaksin’s party,” said Siriporn Buntam, the owner of a small restaurant in the rice-growing province of Lopburi, west of Bangkok. “Only when he was prime minister did we really get attention,” she said.

Sanit Chutipattana, 58, a salesman in Yala, in the Democrat Party’s stronghold in southern Thailand, also supported Mr. Thaksin. “Thaksin is smarter, better in economics,” he said. “In the past I had voted for Democrats, but this time I changed my mind. It’s time to change.”

The groundswell of support for Mr. Thaksin became evident as the campaign proceeded. The appointed civilian government had been seen as ineffectual, and the Democrats failed to capitalize on Mr. Thaksin’s troubles.

When they seized power, the generals said they were doing so in the name of democracy and promised to return the country to civilian rule. But they produced a new Constitution that weakened democratic institutions and shifted power from the executive branch while guaranteeing the influence of the military.

Under an internal security law adopted last week, the military will have the power to intervene in the political process without consultation with the civilian government.

Last August, as the law was being drafted, Human Rights Watch, which is based in New York, branded it “a silent coup.”

Advertisements

ใส่ความเห็น

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / เปลี่ยนแปลง )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / เปลี่ยนแปลง )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / เปลี่ยนแปลง )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / เปลี่ยนแปลง )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: