Yingluck Shinawatra was confirmed as Thailand’s first female prime minister yesterday, faced with the daunting challenge of bringing stability to the kingdom after five years of political turmoil.
Yingluck, sister of fugitive former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, retained an air of calm confidence after she won a parliamentary vote to become prime minister with the support of 296 members of the lower house out of a potential 500.
The country’s 28th prime minister, who was catapulted from relative obscurity to election victory by her older brother’s support, can expect royal endorsement within days to formalize her position.
“I am excited to start work,” she told reporters after the vote. “People will judge whether my work satisfies them and meets their expectations or not.”
Yingluck’s Puea Thai party and its partners command a three-fifths parliamentary majority after a resounding victory in the July 3 election over the pro-establishment Democrats.
The 44-year-old surprised observers with her assured campaign style and she has since consolidated her parliamentary dominance by forming a six-party coalition that accounts for 300 of the legislature’s 500 seats.
Yingluck, described by her brother as his “clone,” yesterday again rejected suggestions that Thaksin, who lives abroad to avoid a jail term for corruption, is controlling her party from afar.
Asked if she was in contact with her brother, she replied: “No, I am not talking to anyone.”
Thailand has seen a period of instability since Thaksin, the only prime minister in the country’s history to win a second term, was removed from power in a 2006 military coup backed by Thai elites.
A group of about a hundred of his “Red Shirt” supporters gathered outside the parliament building ahead of the vote yesterday morning, many wearing their signature colored tops bearing pictures of Yingluck’s face.
Yingluck is expected to face pressure from the mainly poor and working class Red Shirts, many of whom support Thaksin for his populist policies during his 2001-2006 rule. The movement will expect justice over its April and May rallies last year that ended with a military assault and more than 90 people dead.
Analysts believe a key test for the newcomer will simply be whether she can hang on to power in a country where the removal of leaders is commonplace.
Thailand has seen 18 actual or attempted coups since it became a constitutional monarchy in 1932 and only one prime minister in that time has served a full four-year term — Thaksin.