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Party allied with deposed Thai PM says it has enough seats to rule in a coalition

Party allied with deposed Thai PM says it has enough seats to rule in a coalition

Samak Sundaravej, the leading candidate to become Thailand's next leader, said Monday that allies of deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and three small political parties had enough parliamentary seats to form a coalition government.
"We would like to announce the formation of the coalition government of 254 seats," he told a news conference also attended by representatives of the three minor parties.
Samak's pro-Thaksin People's Power Party or PPP came out on top in the country's first election since Thaksin was ousted by a military coup in September 2006, winning 233 seats in parliament's 480-seat lower house. The anti-Thaksin Democrat Party won only 165 seats.
Both parties have been battling to form a coalition since the Dec. 23rd elections.
The Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana with nine seats, Matchima Thipataya with seven, and Pracharaj with five would give the PPP-led coalition a total of 251 _ or 254 _ seats.
Three PPP winners were disqualified by the Election Commission Sunday but this has not been legally endorsed, so officially the PPP still retains 254 seats.
Other PPP victors could also still face disqualification as the commission continues its probes into widespread election violations, especially vote buying. But the PPP says the coalition now has enough seats even if others were disqualified.
It appeared the Chart Thai Party, which won 37 seats, might join the PPP-led grouping.
Chart Thai Party head, Banharn Silpa-archa, said he "foresees no problem" in joining the coalition but would only make his party's position official on Jan. 2.
PPP spokesman Kuthep Saikrajang said if the coalition is successfully formed, Samak would definitely emerge as the prime minister.
Still, analysts said horse-trading with Chart Thai and another party, Puea Pandin, continues and it was too early to declare the pro-Thaksin grouping as Thailand's next government.
"We still need to see how many people are disqualified," said Panithan Wattanayagorn, a political scientist at Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University. "Another wild card is Chart Thai party which has been known to change its position quickly."
Democrat Party spokesman Ong-art Klampaiboon said the party will wait until Jan. 4, when the Election Commission certifies the election results, before making a move. If the PPP fails to form a coalition, he said, his party would try to do so.
"It is not the end until parliament is convened. We will have to see the final seat tally. We also need to see what the other two parties are doing," said Ong-Art.
Parliament's lower house is scheduled to convene Jan. 22.
The election pitted Samak, a veteran rightist politician, against Abhisit Vejjajiva, the 43-year-old, British-educated leader of the Democrat Party, the country's oldest.
But probably the key figure in the contest was Thaksin, who has been living in exile since his ouster by the military, which accused him of massive corruption and abuse of power.
Thaksin remains highly popular with the rural masses and the PPP campaign focused heavily on bringing him back to Thailand. Thaksin, who faces a number of corruption charges, said recently he would be considering his options about a homecoming.