Monday, July 4, 2011

Thai vote turns the status quo on its head

From The International Herald Tribune:

Thai vote turns the status quo on its head

BANGKOK — The party of Thaksin Shinawatra, the fugitive former prime minister, won an overwhelming victory in a parliamentary election Sunday that could turn Thai politics on its head and roll back the results of a coup that ousted Mr. Thaksin five years ago.

In a contest that was seen as a referendum on Thailand's recent turmoil, the Pheu Thai party, headed by Mr. Thaksin's youngest sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, 44, appeared headed for an absolute majority of the 500-seat Parliament. With 98 percent of the votes counted late Sunday, her party was winning a projected 264 seats.

The governing Democrat party won just 160 seats, and Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva conceded defeat.

Ms. Yingluck, a businesswoman with no political experience, was selected to head the party by her brother, who called her his ''clone.'' She proved to be a brilliant campaigner.

The vote is a vindication for Mr. Thaksin, a populist champion of Thailand's long-marginalized rural poor who was elected prime minister twice, in 2001 and 2005, and removed in a coup in September 2006.

''I believe all sides have to respect the decision of the people,'' he said Sunday, speaking to a Thai television station from Dubai, where he lives after evading a conviction for abuse of power. ''If any country doesn't respect the decisions of its people, there's no way it is going to find peace.''

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