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Pro-Thaksin party ahead

world Updated: Dec 24, 2007 01:46 IST
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The party backing ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Sunday it aimed to form a coalition government after falling just short of an outright majority in the first election since a 2006 coup.

“Usually, the people who get the most seats form a government,” People Power Party (PPP) leader Samak Sundaravej told a news conference. “We invite all parties to join us to form a government.”

Samak, whose PPP won around 230 of the 480 seats in Parliament, just short of the 241 needed to govern alone, said he would “certainly be prime minister”.

The party backing ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra easily won the most seats in Sunday’s election, creating a big problem for the generals who booted out the telecom billionaire in a 2006 coup.

With about 75 percent of the vote counted, the People Power Party (PPP) was heading for 230 seats in the 480-member parliament, short of an outright majority but enough to form a government in a coalition with just one minor party.

The big question is whether the army and the royalist establishment, whom the Thaksin camp says were behind the bloodless putsch, will stand by and watch its arch-enemy make a comeback by proxy.

Although some analysts say a strong PPP showing could trigger another coup, others believe the army-appointed government is more likely to try at first to stymie the PPP by disqualifying candidates for vote fraud.

The bigger PPP’s win, the harder that will be to pull off.

“It depends how many red cards they have to issue,” said Kevin Hewison, a Thai expert at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“If it’s 40 or 50, it may be difficult, but if it's only 10 or 20, they might be able to do it.”

The Election Commission said it had received more than 750 complaints, but was taking only 157 of them seriously. It was not clear how many of these could lead to disqualifications.

Army disquiet?
Abrasive PPP leader Samak Sundaravej, whose party embraced the populist policies which won Thaksin landslide victories in 2001 and 2005,
said Thailand’s 45 million voters were just following their emotions.

“What Thaksin did for them five years ago is still in their hearts. They are thinking of him,” said Samak, who freely admits to being a proxy for the exiled 58-year-old former tycoon, believed to be watching the results from Hong Kong.

Political convention dictates that the biggest party gets first crack at cobbling together a coalition.

But the army would prefer a government led by the Democrats, the main opposition during Thaksin’s five years in power, although most analysts agree such a coalition would be weak and unlikely to last beyond a year.

The Democrats, led by Oxford-educated Abhisit Vejjajiva -- the man foreign investors want to see as the next prime minister – looked set to take around 160 seats.