Back in business? The return of the Shinawatras (Thailand’s election part 3)

Posted on | juli 6, 2011 | No Comments

Prime Minister elect Yingluck Shinawatra

Much as anticipated, the Thai general election on July 3 was won by the latest regeneration of the Thai Rak Thai party that was founded by controversial billionaire Thakin Shinawatra in 1998 and banned in 2007.  What was more surprising was that with 265 of the 500 seats in the legislative assembly Pheu Thai (For Thais) led by Thaksin’s sister Yingluck Shinawatra won a clear majority. Furthermore Yingluck was quick to announce she would form a coalition with a number of the smaller parties that will ensure that a Pheu Thai government will have 299 votes it can count on.  As I noted in my previous blog entry the irony of this victory is that despite all their constitutional and extra-constitutional means Thailand’s traditional elite backed by the military have singularly failed to destroy the political legacy of Thaksin Shinawatra. There have now been two elections since the 2006 coup that ousted Thaksin and both of these have been won by successor parties to Thai Rak Thai.  Already Yingluck has announced that she intends to review the case against her brother as part of a wider policy of national reconciliation and the Thai newspaper The Nation has reported that Thaksin is likely to be awarded a Cabinet role as a special trade ambassador.

Nevertheless a look at the electoral geography of Sunday’s election clearly reveals that the country remains starkly divided.  Results from the Election Commission showed that Pheu Thai won 153 of the 195 seats in the north and northeast of the country (including 101/126 in the northeast) while the Democrats won 73 of the 86 seats in Bangkok and the South. Reflecting the ‘class’ division of Thai politics the Democrats won 23 of Bangkok’s 33 seats with Pheu Thai winning ten seats, mostly in the working class fringes of the city. 

So a decisive victory for Yingluck results in Thailand electing its first female Prime Minister and a symbolic victory for the rural and urban poor against the middle classes and establishment. It also demonstrated the clear need for national reconciliation in a country that has witnessed over five years of political turmoil.  Whether that can be achieved may well depend on the ambitions of the billionaire exile in Dubai and whether Yingluck will be her own (wo)man or the puppet her critics have accused her of being.

* Resolving the impasse? Or spiraling towards civil war (Thailand’s election part 2)
* A very Thai farce

AUTHOR: Dr. Jason Abbott
E-MAIL: [at]


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