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Thaksin Allies Unveil Coalition Government with Large Majority in Thai Parliament

  • Luis Ramirez

Backers of ousted Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have unveiled a coalition government with a large majority in the Thai parliament - another blow for the military and other opponents who have been working to keep the exiled former leader out of Thailand's political scene. VOA's Luis Ramirez reports from Bangkok.

The People Power Party announced the formation of its six-party coalition government Saturday, a day after Thailand's Supreme Court threw out attempts by the PPP's opponents to disband the party and annul the results of recent parliamentary elections.

The PPP is made up primarily of supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a military coup in September 2006. His opponents had accused the PPP in court of committing election fraud by seeking, in effect, to re-elect Mr. Thaksin by proxy.

The PPP won the largest number of votes in the December elections, but came just short of the majority of seats it needed to form a government.

On Saturday, the party's leader, Samak Sundaravej, who is likely to be the new prime minister, announced that a comfortable majority has been achieved through a coalition with five other parties.

"Altogether, six parties, it's 315 seats. Three hundred fifteen out of 480, so this is enough," he said.

The numbers mean that, short of staging another coup, the generals who ousted Mr. Thaksin 16 months ago have failed in their attempt to eliminate his influence on Thai politics.

In addition to the lawsuits that were thrown out Friday, Mr. Thaksin's opponents have filed corruption charges against him and his wife, threatened him with arrest if he returns from abroad, and banned him from politics.

Mr. Thaksin is in Hong Kong, where he has been monitoring events at home. His wife returned to Bangkok earlier this month to face fraud charges.

Mr. Samak and other PPP officials have said they want to bring Mr. Thaksin back from exile and exonerate him of the corruption charges he faces. Mr. Thaksin says he hopes to return around April, but says he will not formally enter politics again.

Mr. Samak says he expects the new government to be in place within two weeks, once a prime minister has been formally selected and a cabinet is given final approval by the king.

Opponents of Mr. Thaksin include the urban and upper middle classes, who are critical of the corruption that was common during his administration. They also accuse him of disrespecting the revered Thai king.

But despite huge economic growth in the last generation, much of Thailand's population still lives in poverty. It is among the poor that Mr. Thaksin draws his support, thanks to his populist policies.

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