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Leading candidates to become prime minister in Thailand

Leading candidates to become prime minister in Thailand

It remained unknown Monday who will be Thailand's next prime minister, as rival political parties scrambled to form a coalition after weekend parliamentary elections. According to incomplete results, the People's Power Party, led by allies of deposed leader Thaksin Shinawatra, has won 228 of 480 parliamentary seats and has invited smaller parties to join its side to form a majority. The runner-up Democrat Party, which opposes Thaksin and won 166 seats, says it will try to form a coalition only if PPP fails.
The leading choices for prime minister are:
_ SAMAK SUNDARAVEJ, 72, leader of the People's Power Party. The political veteran is an ultra-right-winger with a combative style who was most recently in the public eye as host of a TV cooking show.
A former Bangkok mayor and six-time Cabinet minister, Samak has been a divisive figure for decades. He allegedly stirred up right-wing mobs that killed leftist student activists in 1976, and he faces corruption charges in two cases from his time as Bangkok mayor in 2000-04.
Samak is now the torchbearer for Thaksin, the billionaire tycoon ousted in a bloodless coup in September 2006. He has vowed to continue Thaksin's populist policies and bring him back from self-imposed exile in London.
_ ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA, 43, head of the liberal and staunchly anti-Thaksin Democrat Party. Born in England, educated at Eton and Oxford and movie-star handsome, Abhisit became one of Thailand's youngest members of parliament at the age of 27.
Polite and polished, Abhisit lists French philosopher Albert Camus as one of his favorite authors, while his musical tastes include British indie rock bands and Barry Manilow. Critics say Abhisit is out of touch with ordinary people, particularly the rural majority, and lacks charisma.
Abhisit's supporters include Bangkok's middle class, the military generals who ousted Thaksin and foreign investors who see him as a stabilizing force.
_ BANHARN SILPA-ARCHA, 75, head of the mid-sized Chart Thai party, is widely regarded as one of Thailand's wiliest politicians. Critics say his alleged corruption and mismanagement of the economy during a 16-month stint as prime minister in 1995-96 paved the way for the collapse of Thailand's currency, sparking the 1997 Asian financial crisis.
He is known as "The Eel" for his party's ability to slide from one side of the political spectrum to the other to link up with those in power.
Chart Thai, which placed third with 39 seats, is likely to be courted by the two top parties as they vie to form a coalition government. He may even be offered the prime minister post again, in return for his party's support.
_ THAKSIN SHINAWATRA, 58. A return of Thaksin as prime minister is unlikely in the short term, since Thai law states a prime minister must have a seat in the country's parliament.
But Thaksin is expected to play a strong behind-the-scenes role in any government led by the PPP.
Samak has said that, if possible, he will grant an amnesty to Thaksin, who was barred from office for five years. Samak has also said he would take other steps to clear Thaksin's name. Accused of widespread corruption and abuse of power, Thaksin has been charged in two corruption-related cases and has remained outside of Thailand since the coup _ partly to avoid arrest under a post-coup, military-backed government. He has been living in London, but was in Hong Kong during the weekend elections.


Updated : 2020-12-04 23:25 GMT+08:00