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PPP rift resolved; party backs Somchai as PM

September 17th, 2008 · No Comments


THAILAND’S ruling party ended two days of intense negotiations yesterday by unanimously backing Acting Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat as its candidate for premier.

Last Tuesday, the Constitutional Court sacked Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej over a conflict of interest concerning payments he received for hosting TV cooking programmes.

His re-nomination for the post by the People Power Party (PPP) caused an uproar within the coalition government, which forced last Friday’s vote to be postponed until today.

PPP’s executive committee put forward Mr Somchai’s name on Monday, but the party’s 70-plus strong Newin Chidchob faction opposed his selection. It said that Mr Somchai’s appointment would increase political tensions in Thailand, because he is the brother-in-law of former-PM Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a September 2006 military coup.

However, the party resolved its internal divisions yesterday. ‘Mr Somchai has been nominated as the PPP candidate for PM and it has been agreed upon by all the factions in the party,’ PPP spokesman Kuthep Saikrachang told BT.

‘The main point is that they (the Newin faction) have come to understand the reasons why we have to choose Mr Somchai. He is a calm, broad-minded compromiser. It will work well for national reconciliation.’

The anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has occupied Government House for more than three weeks, opposed the nomination, saying that it would protest against any prime minister elected from the PPP’s ranks. It says that PPP is Thaksin’s proxy party.

PAD continues to push an anti-democratic agenda, demanding a system where 70 per cent of representatives are appointed from outside of politics. It claims ‘representative democracy is not right for Thailand’, as rural voters are not intelligent enough to elect incorrupt politicians.

The Royal Thai Police said that it would deploy 2,250 police and soldiers around parliament today, to prevent clashes between rival demonstrators. Regardless of today’s vote, Thailand’s political upheaval is likely to take three to four years to resolve, according to a recent report by Phatra Securities.

The Political Economy of Thailand report says that every period of political turmoil, since the country became a constitutional monarchy in 1932, has taken five to seven years to resolve.

The current upheaval began with the September 2006 military coup, and the stand-off between PAD and PPP demonstrates a division between the urban elite, with its institutional powerbase, and the countryside that was empowered by the policies of Thaksin and the PPP, it says.

‘If the past repeats itself, Thailand’s new political equilibrium may not emerge until 2011-12. It is now far from clear what shape or form the new political equilibrium will take. However, the past 75 years showed that the trend is for power to be shared more widely, rather than the other way around.’

In other developments, the Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant for Thaksin for failing to turn up in court, where he is accused of abuse of authority as prime minister over a four billion baht (S$168 million) loan to Myanmar from the Thai Export-Import bank.

Published September 17, 2008
© The Business Times

Tags: news · The Business Times (Singapore)

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