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Thai Prime Minister Claims Snap Election Win


Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has claimed victory in Sunday's snap elections that were boycotted by the opposition. But he acknowledged that many Thais protested his government by casting ballots for no candidate and he proposed an independent commission to address their concerns. Official results are days away.

Thailand's embattled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in his first public interview since Sunday's elections, told television host Adisak Srisom of a government-owned station, that his Thai Rak Thai party has lost support since its landslide re-election one year ago.

Mr. Thaksin says unofficial returns show that his party received 16 million votes, less than the 19 million last year, but adds that it is more than 50 percent nationwide.

The prime minister, facing street demonstrations and accusations of corruption and abuse of office, had pledged he would resign if he received less than one-half of the votes.

Early unofficial returns supported the prime minister's victory claim, which was due in part to a boycott by the three main opposition parties. But he is likely to have difficulty forming a new government because of the many abstention votes against his party.

In Bangkok and southern Thailand, unofficial returns showed that abstention votes outnumbered votes for the prime minister's party, despite the fact that its candidates ran unopposed in two-thirds of the districts.

Mr. Thaksin is proposing "the creation of an independent commission" and said if it recommended that he resign he would do so.

The opposition has rejected the offer. The head of the Democrat Party, one of the boycotters, Abdhisit Vejjajiva, said earlier that the prime minister must resign. He says the results show many people did not believe an election was the way to resolve the current leadership crisis.

Organizers of the mass protests said they would resume their anti-Thaksin rallies.

Because of the boycott, dozens of parliamentary seats are expected to remain vacant, meaning there must be by-elections to fill those seats before a new government can be formed.

Delays are expected to prolong the political crisis that Mr. Thaksin had hoped to resolve by calling these elections three years early.

The crisis began in January when the Thaksin family sold nearly two billion dollars of corporate shares and legally avoided taxes on the sale. The prime minister has faced almost daily street protests accusing him of corruption and abuse of office, charges he denies.

The head of the Forum Asia civic group, Gothom Arya, says there were some irregularities, including a lack of privacy in polling booths and the fact that it was essentially a one-party election in a democratic country.

"It makes the people feel unhappy because to begin with they are unhappy with the election itself, so any incidents is [are] aggravating that sentiment," he said.

The opposition and several monitoring groups said they would ask the courts to annul the ballot on the grounds that the right to secret ballots was violated.

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