Thaksin Finalizes Coalition as Vote Results Confirm Runaway Victory
Thaksin Shinawatra signed up a second coalition partner Wednesday as unofficial results from a round of re-votes confirmed his Thai Rak Thai party would lead Thailand's next government.
Thaksin, who announced an alliance with the New Aspiration party last week, said Chart Thai (Thai Nation) leader Banharn Silpa-archa had accepted an invitation for the party to become the third partner.
"He (Banharn) called me today to say Chart Thai was joining our coalition," he told reporters.
The three-party alliance looks set to hold 324 seats in the 500-seat House of Representatives, with 248 Thai Rak Thai MPs, 36 from New Aspiration and 40 from Chart Thai.
The drawn-out election saga neared a resolution as rough tallies came in from re-votes held Monday in 62 constituencies where the results of the January 6 national ballot were thrown out over graft allegations.
Thaksin had been on track to win an unprecedented majority in the lower house until the Election Commission handed out the disqualifications, including 32 against Thai Rak Thai (Thai Love Thai) candidates.
Newspaper reports said Thai Rak Thai had picked up 23 seats in the re-elections, leaving it just short of a simple majority but still the clearest mandate ever handed to a Thai political party.
The official Election Commission, which has battled to finalize the vote count amid rampant cheating, voter intimidation and unruly protests, plans to reveal the full list of MPs by Friday so that parliament can convene Sunday.
Thaksin has said he expects to be confirmed as Thailand's next prime minister by mid-February, after the new parliament elects a speaker and attends to other procedural matters.
Thai Rak Thai has indicated that its coalition partners will be expected to pledge complete allegiance to party policy, including a controversial plan to give cash donations to every village in Thailand.
They have also been told not to expect any key cabinet posts.
Thaksin said Wednesday that the cabinet line-up, and the portfolios to be handed to his coalition partners, will be discussed over the next few days.
"Thai Rak Thai will take the portfolios of Finance, Agriculture, Industry, Education, Health, Interior, Foreign Affairs and Commerce," he said.
The billionaire businessman this week justified his controversial economic policies, which include a plan to assume responsibility for the mountain of bad loans owed to banks, and to pardon debt in the impoverished rural sector.
"Perhaps it's half true that we're following a populist strategy," he told the Bangkok Post.
"But we have ignored the bottom half of the economy for a long time. Now we are coming back ... it's necessary if we are to avoid problems in the future." -- BANGKOK (AFP)
© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)