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Samak Bid to Remain Thai Prime Minister Ends After Coalition Partners Drop Support

Samak Sundaravej's term as Thailand's prime minister appears to be ending, after coalition parties boycotted a parliamentary session to vote on his re-election. As Ron Corben reports from Bangkok, Mr. Samak also lost support from members of his own party.

Late Friday afternoon news reports said Samak Sundaravej dropped his bid to be re-elected prime minister.

Earlier in the day, five coalition parties withdrew their support for him, and at least 70 members of his People Power Party also defected.

The parliamentary session to re-elect Mr. Samak Sundaravej earlier Friday lasted less than half an hour. House Speaker Chai Chidchob abruptly adjourned the meeting.

The speaker said that, because there are not enough members present, the vote will be delayed.

A new vote will take place next Wednesday.

The PPP had sought to re-elect Mr. Samak, after a constitutional court this week ruled he had to resign because he had violated conflict of interest rules.

Protesters demanding Mr. Samak's resignation have been camped on the grounds of the government's main administration building since late August.

Kraisak Choonhavan, a parliament member from the opposition Democrat Party, says protesters will wait to see who the PPP selects as its next candidate.

"Things are in a bit of confusion for the time being, and it all boils down to the fact that the conflict is within the PPP - that is the result of a failed session this morning at the parliament," Kraisak said.

Sompop Manarangsan, an economist at Chulalongkorn University, says many Thais want a candidate who is less confrontational than Mr. Samak.

"It's rather stubborn to repropose Mr. Samak to be prime minister, because, given the continuing conflict that has been taking place here for several months, there should have some new change that is acceptable among the people, particularly the people in the more educated areas - like in the urban areas," Sompop said.

The business community and other community leaders urged the PPP to select someone other than Mr. Samak. The Thai economy, especially tourism, has been hit by the political tension.

Anti-government protesters say the PPP acts for former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who fled to Britain last month during a corruption trial. Mr. Thaksin says he is innocent and accuses the judiciary of bias. News reports say he had urged the PPP back Mr. Samak.

Thai politics have been deeply divided since Mr. Thaksin was elected in 2001. His policies of aiding farmers and providing low-cost health care won the support of urban working class and many in the rural regions. Those same voters now back Mr. Samak.

But the urban middle class accuses Mr. Thaksin of being authoritarian and corrupt. He was ousted in a coup in September 2006.