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Thais Elect New Government; Major Win Projected for Prime Minister Thaksin

  • Scott Bobb

Thai voters turned out early and in large numbers Sunday to deliver their verdict on the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

In the working-class district of Klong Toey in central Bangkok, driver Mongkol expresses satisfaction with the populist policies of the Thaksin government.

Mr. Mongkol says the government does a lot of good things, especially for poor people.

Fifty-five-year-old schoolteacher Supasri, says the most important thing for her is good governance.

"Reduce the corruption. Corruption is a major problem," said Ms. Supasri.

She adds the economy, and especially job creation, are also major priorities.

A factory worker from Bangkok, 41-year-old Sontichai, says that those who are elected must fulfill their campaign promises or else they will not be re-elected.

He said everybody needs a job and the new government must solve Bangkok's traffic problem.

Public opinion polls going into the election predicted a landslide win for Prime Minister Thaksin, whose populist policies and supply-side economic programs have revitalized the Thai economy and entrenched his popularity among the working-class and the rural poor.

However, intellectuals and civic groups say the policies are unsustainable. And, more than a decade after the end of military dominance in Thai politics, they accuse the Thaksin government of rolling back personal liberties.

Chulalongkorn University Professor Kalaya says she is worried.

"We have a new form of authoritarianism, I think. From a military dictatorship, we now have a new form of dictatorship," said Professor Kalaya.

She adds that the majority of the people appear to like a strong leader, whereas for her democracy means something else.

"Correct balance of the government party and the opposition party, and good governance. But it seems we are going to have four more years of stronger government, which I'm worried about," she said.

Nevertheless, she says she respects the view of the majority and the importance of free elections. Those who do not like the results, she says, will just have to work harder.

Official election results are due within 30 days but a preliminary tally is expected by Monday.