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Deposed Thai PM plans return from exile, may advise winning party in elections

Deposed Thai PM plans return from exile, may advise winning party in elections

Deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said he plans to return home from exile and might advise the victorious party in last weekend's elections, sparking fears of another year of intense political conflict in Thailand.
Speaking Tuesday at a news conference in Hong Kong, Thaksin said he would "explore options" for a comeback between mid-February and April, but will not resume his political career after being ousted in a bloodless coup last year.
"I really want to go back as a normal citizen. Enough is enough for politics," said Thaksin, who is legally barred from holding office.
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. The PPP won Sunday's election on a campaign pledge to bring Thaksin back.
The leader of the PPP's chief rival, Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party, warned that Thaksin should not interfere in Thailand's political or judicial system.
"In that case, the country might face rifts and conflicts, while nobody wants another military coup," he said.
The Election Commission said Tuesday the PPP won 233 of 480 seats in the lower house of Parliament, with the Democrat Party capturing 165 and third-ranked Chart Thai gaining 37.
The PPP is in the best position to form a governing coalition.
PPP Secretary-General Surapong Suebwonglee said three small parties have agreed to join a PPP-led coalition of at least 254 seats, and that his party was negotiating with two others.
Surapong said he would formally announce his partners' names only after Jan. 3, when the Election Commission is expected to certify the voting results.
Parliament's lower house is to convene Jan. 22, a month after the election.
Complicating negotiations, some victors may yet be disqualified because the commission is investigating dozens of alleged electoral violations.
Election Commissioner Sodsri Sathayatham said the commission had already nullified a result in the northeastern province of Nakhon Ratchasima after finding solid evidence that three PPP victors in one district hired people to hand out cash for votes.
Poll watchdog the Asian Network for Free Elections said 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 barred from office, the courts dissolved his Thai Rak Thai Party, and he has been charged with corruption-related crimes.
The People's Power Party's election success 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 the military that disposed him, Bangkok's educated middle class and the country's elite, including elements associated with the country's monarchy.
Rumors swirled that the military would carry out a new coup if faced with the prospect of a Thaksin comeback, although the army's commander has promised to respect the election results.
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Associated Press writer Cassie Biggs contributed to this report from Hong Kong.


Updated : 2020-12-01 05:14 GMT+08:00