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Thai army backs election result

world Updated: Jul 04, 2011 23:23 IST

Thailand's outgoing defence minister has said the army will not intervene after supporters of exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra swept to another resounding general election victory.

Thaksin's younger sister Yingluck, who fronts the Puea Thai party, announced she had agreed a coalition deal with four minor parties that would give the new government 299 seats.

Puea Thai won an absolute majority with 264 seats in the 500-seat parliament, according to preliminary election commission results that could still shift somewhat. But by moving fast to cement its triumph with outside support has made it harder for opponents to intervene. It paves the way for Yingluck to become the country's first female prime minister.

Thaksin was toppled by a military coup in 2006 and now lives in Dubai as a fugitive due to an abuse of power conviction that he says was politically motivated. His Thai Rak Thai party and its successor were also disbanded and many of their leaders banned from politics - yet he continued to command massive popular support, as the electoral landslide showed. Puea Thai campaigned on the promise: Thaksin thinks - Puea Thai does.

Yingluck said her first task was the "roadmap to reconciliation" after years of unrest. She also cited the need to tackle high prices, improve international relations and curb corruption.

Meanwhile, outgoing Democrat prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said he had decided to step down as party leader, although his right-hand man, Surichoke Sopha, also a Democrat MP, said he believed the party still wanted Abhisit. Surichoke added: "I don't think this [Puea Thai] government will last long ... They will have to compromise with the ruling class and at the same time satisfy the grassroots."

The country has become polarised between Thaksin supporters, particularly the rural poor and new money - and the old elites that sought to keep him from power with the support of the urban middle classes.

The split became even more entrenched when more than 90 people died as the military cracked down on Thaksin-supporting protesters in the centre of Bangkok last year. While redshirt leaders were jailed over the demonstrations, the government refused to acknowledge that the army had caused any deaths.