January 4, 2008

Thailand's New Democracy as Fractious as the Old

Thailand returned to democracy last month, with its first national elections after 15 months of military rule.

But the transition is proving to be a rocky one.

According to Asia Times, The People Power Party, a new version of the party once headed by ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, won the largest number of seats — though not an outright majority — in parliamentary elections on Dec. 23, and party leaders began lining up partners to form a coalition government.

The victory seemed a blow to military leaders, who were opposed to Thaksin’s government.

Thaksin is still in exile in London, and faces arrest on corruption charges if he returns to Thailand.

But the new government faces resistance from other parties, including the Democrat Party, which was the runner-up in the elections, and has a strong following in the nation’s South.

Election results in some precincts, including Bangkok, have been disputed, and the national elections board has called for runoff votes in some areas.

The Bangkok Post also reports that the elections board has issued so-called red cards to candidates, temporarily banning them from political activities, due to charges of election-tampering.

By many accounts, Thailand is still bitterly divided over the Thaksin administration and the subsequent coup.

The nation’s king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, used his New Year’s address to issue a plea for unity and for “all of us to help one another to support the country to achieve normalcy and stability,” reports the Post.

— Will Crain/Newsdesk.org

Sources:

“Thailand democratic but shaky after vote”
Asia Times, Dec. 25, 2007

“Chart Thai to join coalition govt”
Bangkok Post, Dec. 31, 2007

“Surapong: Red cards issued unfairly”
Bangkok Post, Jan. 1, 2008

“King pleads for unity, national stability”
Bangkok Post, Jan. 1, 2008

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