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Samak’s hat back in the ring for PM – Re-nominated by his party; opposition seeks to fight move

September 12th, 2008 · No Comments


THAILAND’s deposed prime minister was re-nominated for the position by his ruling party yesterday in a move that both the opposition and analysts say will escalate the political crisis. He, on his part, appears determined not to give in to the so-called ‘Bangkok elite’ that is bent on driving him out of office.

The People Power Party (PPP) yesterday backed Samak Sundaravej as its choice for prime minister, two days after the Constitutional Court ordered his resignation from the post for receiving payments for hosting two TV cooking shows – which it said was a constitutional violation.

Parliament is set to elect the new prime minister later today.

Thailand’s main opposition Democrat Party hit out at the nomination. ‘It will only escalate the present turmoil,’ Democrat spokesman Buranaj Smutharaks told The Business Times. ‘It’s a clear demonstration of the PPP’s utter disregard and contempt for the rule of law, and of its refusal to take any responsibility, ethically or morally (for the crisis).’

‘This is an opportunity for the government to communicate to the public how they can mitigate the current crisis,’ said Mr Buranaj. ‘To do that, they need someone with the ability to reunite Thailand, not a figure as divisive as Samak Sundaravej.’

Civil disobedience and large-scale demonstrations by the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has occupied Government House since Aug 26, are likely if Mr Samak is reappointed today. But there is no great risk of violence, according to analysts.

‘Mr Samak’s re-nomination is likely to further prolong this crisis,’ said Steve Vickers, chief executive of FTI-International Risk, a risk consultancy. ‘The PPP has made a strategic decision to reinstate him, while the PAD has invested far too much political capital to back down from its position.’

Despite both sides refusing to back down, military intervention is still unlikely, ‘mainly because of its appalling governance record after the last coup’, Mr Vickers said.

PPP, which was elected last December, is seen as a proxy party for ousted-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. The PAD still refuses to recognise the PPP’s mandate to rule. Both sides have dug their heels in.

In the face of criticism, PPP has adopted a bullish stance, saying it had ‘no choice’ but to re-select Mr Samak. ‘We have no alternative but to support him because we want him to continue his fight for democracy,’ said PPP spokesman Kuthep Saikrachang.

The PAD will remain an obstacle, whoever is selected. ‘No matter who you nominate today, the crisis will continue for a while,’ said Mr Kuthep.

Mr Samak’s re-election is not guaranteed, however. Yesterday a group of PPP MPs from north-east Thailand said they would not vote for him.

If Mr Samak fails to win a majority, the government will be weakened and PAD demands for 70 per cent of MPs to be appointed are likely to be accepted. If he does win, then it is still constitutionally unclear if he can assume office with a constitutional ruling against him, said Mr Vickers.

As long as there are no violent flashpoints, Thailand will eventually pull through, though the current crisis will continue for a prolonged time. ‘A number of our international clients are very concerned about the situation on the ground in Thailand,’ said Mr Vickers. ‘Although it’s messy and ugly from the outside, we advocate caution but continuing business as usual.

Published September 12, 2008
© The Business Times

Tags: news · The Business Times (Singapore)

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