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Allies of Ousted Thai PM Vow to Form Government

NPR's Michael Sullivan

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A political party affiliated with deposed Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said Monday it has the support needed to form a coalition government after delivering a resounding election defeat to allies of last year's military coup.

The pro-Thaksin People's Power Party won 228 seats in the parliamentary election, falling short of an absolute majority in the lower house. To govern, it needs to join hands with at least one of the other six parties that won seats.

"The PPP will form a government," said PPP Secretary-General Surapong Suebwonglee, adding that enough allies from other parties had been recruited to form a ruling coalition.

Suebwonglee, however, declined to name the coalition members and it was uncertain whether his statement represented a genuine deal or was simply political posturing.

The second-place Democrat Party took 166 seats and has signaled readiness to form its own coalition.

"If the PPP succeeds in forming the government, the Democrat Party is ready to be in the opposition to protect the people's interest. However, if the PPP fails to form a government, the Democrat Party is also ready to form a government," said Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejajjiva.

Thailand has experienced political chaos since a series of mass demonstrations in the capital Bangkok last year called for Thaksin to resign amid accusations of corruption. On Sept. 19, the military led a coup against the leader, forcing him into exile.

Although the forces that helped unseat Thaksin — the military, Bangkok's educated middle class and the country's elite, including elements associated with the country's monarchy — have worked hard to erase his political legacy, he has remained popular in the country's rural rice-belt. Farmers there are grateful for the rice subsidy and low-cost health-care programs he implemented during his tenure.

Thaksin, one of Thailand's wealthiest businessmen, was abroad at the time of his ouster and has stayed in exile, legally barred from office, having his party dissolved by the courts and being charged with a slew of corruption-related crimes.

Despite having vowed retirement from politics, he burnished his image from afar, with such moves as the purchase of England's Manchester City soccer club, buying into the sport's popularity in Thailand.

Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party was forced to dissolve following the coup, but was reconstituted as the PPP ahead of the elections.

Thaksin's PPP allies announced last week that the former prime minister would return to Bangkok early next year, after a new government is installed.

Thaksin did not comment publicly on the election results.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press