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Deposed Thai PM Thaksin planning return, may advise winning party in elections

Deposed Thai PM Thaksin planning return, may advise winning party in elections

Deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Tuesday he is willing to act as an adviser to the political party that won Thailand's general elections and is now maneuvering to forge a coalition government.
Speaking in Hong Kong, the self-exiled Thaksin said he will "explore options" for a return from mid-February until April at the latest, but will not resume his political career after being ousted in a bloodless coup d'etat last year.
"I really want to go back as a normal citizen. Enough is enough for politics," said Thaksin at a press conference in Hong Kong.
However, he said he would be willing to act as a political adviser to the People's Power Party _ made up of his supporters and political allies _ if asked. The PPP won Sunday's election in Thailand on a campaign pledge to bring Thaksin back.
Releasing the full results Tuesday, the Election Commission said the PPP won 233 of the 480 seats in the lower house of parliament, with its top rival Democrat Party capturing 165 and Chart Thai gaining 37.
However, these results may change since some victors may be disqualified or ordered to contest again in a by-election after the commission finishes investigations into electoral violations.
Election Commissioner Sodsri Sathayatham said Tuesday the commission nullified the election result in Prathongkham district in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima after it found solid evidence that three PPP victors hired people to give out cash in exchange for votes.
The commission said 74.45 percent of the 45 million eligible voters cast ballots _ a record in Thai political history.
PPP Secretary-General Surapong Suebwonglee told a news conference Tuesday that three small parties have agreed to join the PPP, and that the coalition would have at least 254 seats.
He said that it is negotiating with two other parties and expected to have between 280 and 300 seats to form a stable government. Parliament's lower house is supposed to convene on Jan. 22, a month after the election.
Surapong said he will formally announce his would-be partners' names only after Jan. 3, when the Election Commission is expected to certify the voting results.
The Asian Network for Free Elections, or ANFREL, an Asian election watchdog, said Tuesday that pre-election vote-buying was "pervasive" and that the military coerced voters in some instances.
Thaksin was ousted on Sept. 19, 2006. He was abroad during the coup and has since lived in exile, mostly in London. He is legally barred from office, the courts dissolved his Thai Rak Thai Party, and he has been charged with corruption-related crimes.
The victory of Thaksin's backers in the People's Power Party sent a powerful message that Thaksin's mostly rural supporters would be happy to see him return, despite his alleged corruption and abuse of power.
Less happy about his return would be those who deposed him: the military, Bangkok's educated middle class and the country's elite, including elements associated with the country's monarchy.
All had felt threatened by Thaksin's accumulation of power, attained through an unprecedented absolute majority in the country's parliament.
Under the interim military-installed government that succeeded Thaksin, his foes changed the constitution to limit big parties' influence and sought to demonize him as a corrupt destroyer of democracy.
His return could undo their efforts and put their own positions in jeopardy.
Rumors had swirled that the military might carry out a new coup if faced with the prospect of a Thaksin comeback _ but the army commander has promised to abide by the election results.
Those results showed Thaksin's foes had failed to win over his followers in the sprawling, rural north and northeast. They remain loyal because of Thaksin's populist programs like universal health care and village development funds, when he held office in 2001-06.
The PPP is in the best position to form a new governing coalition, but it faces a sharp challenge from the Democrat Party.
His statement drew skepticism from Democrat Party Secretary-General Suthep Thueksuban, who said the PPP's claim would be credible only if all the involved party leaders announce it publicly and jointly.
At a press conference, ANFREL said that vote-buying was practiced by several political parties and included in-kind gifts, cash handouts, electronic transfers of money, payments to attend party rallies and free sightseeing trips.
"Money politics remains pervasive," said ANFREL official Damaso Magbual.
"Though martial law has not been applied in a heavy-handed way as in Pakistan, its presence is inconsistent with international norms," he said. In the northern province of Chiang Rai, Magbual said the watchdog's observers received credible information that the army coerced its own soldiers and intimidated PPP supporters.
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Associated Press writer Cassie Biggs contributed to this report from Hong Kong.


Updated : 2020-12-04 12:33 GMT+08:00