Tue, Feb 08, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Thailand's PM creates history with re-election

VICTORIOUS Thaksin Shinawatra has emerged from the election with a mandate to form a one-party government, avoid parliamentary censure and amend the Constitution

AP AND REUTERS , BANGKOK

Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday became the first Thai prime minister to win a second successive term and a single-party mandate with a crushing election victory despite an opposition campaign based on fear of dictatorship.

Estimates of final results gave his Thai Rak Thai party about 370 of the 500 seats in parliament, well above pre-poll forecasts and allowing the ex-telecoms tycoon to form the first one-party government in Thailand's coalition and coup-prone history.

An initial exit poll after Sunday's election gave his party 399 seats.

Thaksin won his huge majority after delivering on the populist platform that swept him to power in 2001 when he promised cheap health care and rural handouts.

Final results, delayed by complaints of fraud and cheating, were expected later yesterday, but Thaksin has already claimed victory, the opposition has conceded and its leader has resigned.

"The numbers are more than enough to establish a one-party government," Thaksin declared on Sunday after it became clear that he had won an unprecedented second term.

He said yesterday that he hoped to form the new government by early next month.

The Democrat party all but conceded defeat before balloting began, but had hoped to gain enough votes with its potential allies to mount censure motions and stop amendment of the 1997 Constitution, the fruit of decades of sometimes bloody struggle against dictatorial regimes.

Taking responsibility for the loss, Democrat leader Banyat Bantadtan announced his resignation. Deputy leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, young and regarded as more dynamic than Banyat, is expected to take over the country's oldest party.

Pointing to attacks by Thaksin against democratic institutions, including the press, during his last four years, critics fear the prime minister will seek to strike out some of the Constitution's more liberal provisions.

Wassana Permlab, chief of the Election Commission, said more than 70 percent of the electorate turned out to vote, surpassing the 69 percent in the 2001 election. Balloting among the 44.8 million eligible voters was mandatory, but violators are seldom prosecuted.

A police officer assigned to guard a Democrat party candidate was fatally shot in southern Thailand, Wassana said, but otherwise no major incidents were reported.

Twenty parties fielded 2,289 candidates, but it appeared that only five parties would win seats in the House of Representatives. Thaksin indicated that he would probably not include his current partner and the third-ranked party, the Chart Thai, in his new government.

Thaksin, 55, is a self-made telecom millionaire who founded Thai Rak Thai and rode to victory four years ago on public disenchantment with the country's slow recovery from the 1997-1998 financial crisis.

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