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Thai Prime Minister Steps Aside After Large Protest Vote in Snap Elections


Thailand's embattled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has announced he will step down in an effort to end the nation's political crisis.

Mr. Thaksin made the announcement on national television late Tuesday, following a meeting with King Bhumibol Adulyadej. He did not say whether the king had requested that he step down.

The prime minister told his television audience he wants to see Thailand unite in honor of the king's upcoming 60th anniversary on the throne. He said he will not accept the office of prime minister once parliament reconvenes, but will serve in a caretaker role until his replacement is chosen.

Mr. Thaksin's announcement comes two days after snap elections that he called in response to prolonged anti-government protests.

Organizers have held weekly protests since January, accusing Mr. Thaksin of corruption and abuse of office. The prime minister's critics were angered by his family's tax-free sale of nearly $2 billion worth of shares in a company Mr. Thaksin founded.

In Sunday's elections, Mr. Thaksin's ruling party claimed to have won 57 percent of the vote, but the opposition boycotted the polls. Earlier in the day, the three main opposition parties said they would rejoin the political process if Mr. Thaksin stepped down.

Thailand's election commission already has scheduled new elections, because it said the Sunday vote produced inconclusive results in several constituencies.

Mr. Thaksin said he plans to remain a member of parliament and the head of the Thai Rak Thai party.