Thai political crisis intensifies
The moment PM Shinawatra claimed victory in snap elections, opponents resumed calls for his resignation.india Updated: Apr 04, 2006 13:20 IST
Thailand's political crisis intensified on Tuesday as the country awaited official results from weekend snap elections, after Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra claimed victory and his opponents resumed calls for his resignation.
Thaksin said late on Monday that he had won 57 per cent of votes, according to preliminary results, but that he would address his opponents' accusations of corruption and abuse of power by letting an independent committee decide whether he should step down.
"I want to set up an independent committee to bring together all those with different opinions to find a way forward. If that committee tells me to quit, then I will quit," Thaksin said, speaking live on prime-time television in his first substantive comments since Sunday's election.
The Election Commission was initially expected to release complete poll returns Tuesday but it has said there could be a delay.
By Tuesday morning, counting had only been completed for about half the country's 400 constituencies, Ekachai Warunprapha, the commission spokesman, told the agency.
"We do not know when we will be able to make the official announcement," he said.
Thaksin's critics -- who for two months have been staging rallies drawing as many as 100,000 people -- rejected the prime minister's idea of a reconciliation committee as insincere and called for new anti-government protests this week.
"Thaksin should accept that the people have given him a big slap in the face," said Chamlong Srimuang, a leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy, which organised the anti-government demonstrations that prompted him to call early elections.
"We do not accept any proposal by Thaksin. We stand firm on demands for Thaksin to quit."
The protests were scheduled to resume later this week after a pause for the election.
The main opposition parties boycotted Sunday's poll, leaving Thaksin's ruling Thai Rak Thai -- Thai Love Thai -- party uncontested in 278 of 400 constituencies for the lower house of Parliament.
The boycott left 38 constituencies undecided, because the sole candidate in each race failed to win a required 20 percent of the vote, according to the unofficial results.
All of the rest of the seats in Parliament would go to the ruling party except one, which went to a candidate from the obscure Khonkhopodnee Party in the southern province of Nakhon Sri Thammarat, the unofficial results showed.
About 10 million voters showed their disapproval of Thaksin by casting abstention votes, answering calls by the opposition to "Vote No Vote."
Partial results showed a record high number of abstention ballots in Bangkok, where the anti-Thaksin movement is strongest, and in southern Thailand, which is traditionally a stronghold of the opposition Democrat Party.
But the ruling party was expected to sweep the north and northeast where rural voters have benefited from Thaksin's generous social welfare and economic assistance programs.
Thaksin had previously said he would step down if his party won less than 50 per cent of the vote.