Thailand's People Power Party (PPP), backed by ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, won support of five small allies on Saturday to lead a coalition government emerging after a December 23 general election.
The PPP-led coalition, announced one day after the Supreme Court cleared the party of charges of poll irregularities, paved the way for its pugnacious leader, Sumak Sundaravej, to become prime minister at the age of 72.
Its success is expected to speed up Thaksin's return from exile, mostly in London, 16 months after he lost power in a peaceful military coup. Thaksin, highly popular among rural Thais, faces corruption charges related to a past property transaction made by his wife and false corporate disclosure by a listed firm owned by his family.
The former telecom billionaire said in London this week he would probably return to Thailand in a few months. The PPP-led coalition, commanding about two-thirds of the 480 lower-house seats in parliament, is expected to get its nominee elected as parliament president on Tuesday, one day after the lower House of Representatives convenes its first session.
PPP officials say parliament is expected to hold a special session next Friday to choose Samak as prime minister.
"This coalition helps break a political deadlock. Our combined 315 seats should create a fairly strong government," Samak told a press conference to announce the coalition. "The country has gone through enough of a crisis and has wasted a lot of time. It's time we set forth to tackle problems," he said, referring to the period that Thailand was run by a military-appointed government since the September 2006 coup.
Samak, a former Bangkok governor, and his PPP members are widely regarded as fronts for Thaksin and his dissolved Thai Rak Thai Party whose 111 executives -- Thaksin included -- have been banned from politics for five years in the aftermath of the coup.
PPP, formed by Thaksin's supporters and campaigning on his populist policies, emerged the biggest party after the election last month capturing nearly half of its 480 lower house seats.