Thai Election Victor Looks to Boost Majority

Posted July 4th, 2011 at 3:03 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Political novice Yingluck Shinawatra is looking to smaller parties to boost her majority in Thailand's parliament a day after elections that will make her the country's first female prime minister.

Election officials said Ms. Yingluck's Puea Thai party captured 265 of the 500 seats in Sunday's voting. The outcome was a stunning setback for the Democrat party of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who announced Monday he will step down as party leader.

However Puea Thai leaders said they would open talks Monday with several smaller parties, hoping to build a coalition with as many as 295 seats. The officials noted that technical challenges in several constituencies could eat away at the party's majority.

Ms. Yingluck's victory will mean a return to influence for her older brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister who was deposed by the military five years ago. Despite their hostility to Thaksin, military leaders said Monday they will respect the election result.

Thaksin has been living in self-imposed exile in the Middle East because of a conviction on corruption charges that he says was politically motivated. One of the first challenges facing Ms. Yingluck after the new parliament is seated will be whether to pardon her brother.

She must also decide whether to seek charges against military leaders over last year's political violence in which more than 90 people were killed, most of them “Red Shirt” supporters of Thaksin and his political allies.

Thaksin openly advised the Puea Thai campaign from exile and selected his 44-year-old sister to run it. However the successful businesswoman proved to be a very capable campaigner and quickly won over many doubters.

Ms. Yingluck promised during the campaign to pursue a policy of reconciliation, seeking to end tensions between her brother's poor and largely rural supporters and the Democrats with their better educated and pro-monarchy followers.

The United States issued a statement late Sunday in Washington congratulating Thai voters for their “robust participation” in the election.