Tue, Jan 13, 2009 - Page 1 News List

New Thai PM gains slim majority after parliamentary polls

AFP , BANGKOK

New Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday hailed his government’s victory in key by-elections that cemented the shaky coalition’s grip on power in its first major test at the polls.

His month-old Democrat Party-led coalition grabbed 20 of the 29 seats being contested and the opposition just nine, initial results released by the Election Commission after Sunday’s vote said.

The polls boosted hopes of stability after months of political unrest but came as a blow to allies of ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who had hoped to narrow Abhisit’s thin majority in the 480-member parliament.

MOVING FORWARD

“The result from the by-elections reflects that people want to see the country move forwards and become less divided,” Abhisit told reporters at his office in Bangkok.

“It also reflects that they want the government to solve the country’s economic and social problems quickly.”

Sunday’s by-elections were triggered when a Constitutional Court ruling on Dec. 2 toppled the previous, pro-Thaksin government and banned scores of lawmakers from politics because of vote fraud charges.

Oxford-educated Abhisit then came to power in a close parliamentary vote on Dec. 15, forming a government with defectors from the Thaksin-backed People Power Party (PPP) and former coalition partners of the PPP.

END OF PROTESTS

The vote brought to an end six months of sometimes violent protests against the old government, which peaked with the crippling week-long occupation of Bangkok’s two airports in late November to early last month.

Supporters of Thaksin, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006 and lives in exile to avoid a prison term for corruption, have held their own protests against Abhisit in recent weeks, saying they have been cheated.

“The result strengthens the government position,” political scientist Prayad Hongtongkhum told reporters. “Voters who understand politics want to give the current government a chance to work.”

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