Thai Parliament Opens Amid Hopes for Stability

Posted August 1st, 2011 at 2:30 am (UTC-5)
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Thailand's parliament opens its new session Monday amid hopes that prospective prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra can restore stability to the country after five years of political turmoil.

Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn was to preside over the ceremonial opening late Monday, with the 500-member assembly expected to select a speaker as early as Tuesday. The selection of a prime minister could come before the end of the week.

Ms. Yingluck is virtually assured of securing the post, having put together a coalition that will command 60 percent of the chamber's seats. The overwhelming victory claimed by her Pheu Thai party in July 3 elections has raised hopes that she will be able to command broad popular support for her policies.

However, financial analysts warn of the threat of inflation if Ms. Yingluck follows through on all her election promises, including an increase in the minimum wage, higher prices for rice producers and the construction of high-speed rail lines.

The new Cabinet must present its policies to parliament for a no-confidence vote within 15 days of taking office.

Ms. Yingluck is the younger sister of Thaksin Shinawatra, a popular former prime minister who was ousted in a military coup in 2006. Mr. Thaksin was later convicted in absentia on corruption charges and is living in self-imposed exile in Dubai.

Since then, pro- and anti-Thaksin groups known as Red and Yellow Shirts have taken to the streets in mass protests as two more pro-Thaksin governments were ousted by the courts on technical grounds.

About 90 people died in violent confrontations when police broke up a weeks-long Red Shirt demonstration in Bangkok last year.