Post-coup Elections Bring More Uncertainty to Thailand

 

Post-coup Elections Bring More Uncertainty to Thailand


24 December 2007

Ramirez report – Download MP3 (542k) audio clip
Listen to Ramirez report audio clip

Supporters of Thailand’s ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra say they have enough support to form a coalition government, one day after winning a majority of seats in the country’s new parliament. The elections marked a return to democratic rule following a military coup last year. But as VOA’s Luis Ramirez reports from Bangkok, the kingdom’s political situation is far from settled.

Supporters of Thailand's People's Power Party cheer election returns at the party's headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, 23 Dec 2007
Supporters of Thailand’s People’s Power Party cheer election returns at the party’s headquarters in Bangkok, Thailand, 23 Dec 2007

The People Power Party, which backs exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, won a majority of the parliament’s 480 seats. But the victory was not as overwhelming as exit polls originally reported. Without an outright majority, the PPP must form a coalition government led by Thaksin supporters who have pledged to bring the ousted leader back – something analysts say the military will likely try to prevent.

Thaksin was ousted after opponents accused him of corruption, abuse of power, and a lack of respect for the highly revered Thai king.

The election on Sunday was a no-confidence vote by Thais who expressed frustration with the military’s handling of the economy and other affairs over the past 15 months since the coup. This voter in Bangkok said he cast a ballot not so much in favor of any particular party, but against those who staged the coup.

He says the time since the coup has been very, very bad, especially in regard to the economy.

Analysts say the vote was a lesson to the coup makers. However, they say it remains unclear whether the military, the urban elite and the bureaucratic establishment will accept Thaksin’s return to Thai politics.

Military leaders promised to accept the initial election results, but whether they remain on the sidelines in the crucial coming weeks in which a government will be formed is another question.

“It remains to be seen now how they play their future role,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a professor of politics at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University. “They want to remain involved in politics somehow but they know the days of the coup may be numbered. This is the predicament for the military but it also provides a lot of uncertainty for Thailand.”

The long existing Democrat Party – which has the implicit support of the military – has come in with the second largest majority.

Observers warn that having an ineffective government in place could bring more turmoil and create conditions for renewed intervention by the military.

 

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