Thailand Opposition Party Victory: Yingluck Shinawatra Will Become Country’s First Woman Prime Minister
Thailand’s opposition party has apparently been swept into power and the country will have its first woman to serve as Prime Minister after contradictory reports that suggested it could be heading to a new round of controversy. Early stories pointed to exist polls suggesting that five years of political strife in Thailand appeared to be leading to historic landslide victory by Thailand’s opposition that would make Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, poised to be the country’s first woman to serve as Prime Minister. But later stories suggested the opposition might not win after all amid narrowing margins.
Now there seems to be a conclusion: Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has conceded:
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva conceded Sunday that Yingluck Shinawatra had won the nation’s election.
“Congratulations to Thailand’s first female prime minister,” he said.
Early exit polling in Thailand showed Yingluck of the Pheu Thai party with a wide lead over Abhisit of the Democratic Party.
Polling also showed Yingluck’s party may take more than 300 of the 500 seats in the House of Representatives up for grabs in the election, according to data collected by the Suan Dusit Poll.
Here are some key dates in Thailand’s recent political history.
CNN’s earlier report:
There was this article by Australia’s ABC’s:
The margin has narrowed between Thailand’s two main political parties who are fighting out the right to govern after a landmark election on Sunday.
Exit polls released immediately after voting closed predicted a landslide to the main opposition Pheu Thai party of around 300 seats – 251 seats are required to govern.
But with more than 50 per cent of the vote counted the opposition looks like winning 251, right on the border line, and the incumbent Democrats about 168.
Such a margin, which is still fluctuating, may open the door to the Democrats holding government via a coalition.
Already questions are being asked about the reasons for such a disparity between exit polls and the official count.
Meanwhile a big crowd has gathered at opposition headquarters cheering each seat as it’s finalised.
Thailand’s exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has called for the result of the election to be respected.
An earlier story: exit polls showed the opposition party is headed to a landslide sweep, Australia’s ABC News noted:
Three separate exit polls are showing a landslide victory to the red shirt-backed opposition in Thailand’s landmark election.
The unofficial exit polls by three independent organisations show the opposition Pheu Thai party, allied with ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, winning between 280 and 342 seats.
That well and truly exceeds the minimum needed to govern outright of 251.
According to the exit polls, the incumbent Democrat Party looks like winning between 132 and 153 seats.
The size of the margin, if accurate, would allow Puea Thai to govern on its own without coalition partners and usher in to power Mr Thaksin’s sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, a 44-year-old businesswoman campaigning for prime minister.
With polls now closed the official count is underway and there should be a preliminary result from the Election Commission this evening.
Yingluck Shinawatra and Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva have both arrived at their respective party headquarters to await the announcement.
Speaking from Dubai, Mr Thaksin called for the result to be respected, and says he’s congratulated his sister by telephone.
With charisma, star appeal and promises of populist giveaways, Yingluck Shinawatra was a powerful weapon for Thailand’s opposition party and is set to become the country’s first woman prime minister just six weeks into her political career.
Yingluck’s Puea Thai party looked set for a landslide win in Sunday’s election, marking a stunning turnaround in fortunes for a party in disarray and stigmatized for its links to her exiled billionaire brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, a twice elected premier despised by Thailand’s elite and ousted in a 2006 coup.
The 44-year-old businesswoman has earned rock-star status, capturing the hearts of the millions of working class Thais loyal to her brother, a tycoon seen as the only Thai premier who sought to boost the livelihoods of the millions of rural poor beyond Bangkok’s bright lights.
For hours after exit polls indicated a Puea Thai win, her supporters were rapturous, screaming and chanting her name in anticipation of a Shinawatra political dynasty taking shape.
“Prime Minister Yingluck,” chanted hundreds of people crammed into the party’s Bangkok headquarters. “Landslide, landslide,” others shouted in English.
Yingluck has promised to revive Thaksin’s famous populist policies and raise living standards, vowing to pursue reconciliation to end Thailand’s bloody six-year political crisis without seeking vengeance for her brother’s overthrow.
A big victory for the “red shirts” in Thailand’s parliamentary election will–if not interrupted by another of the country’s long string of coups–bring to power the youngest sister of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The triumph of Yingluck Shinawatra’s party is a perfect political storm for the nation’s royalist elite. It had adopted the generally pro-business rule by the Democrat Party’s Abhisit Vejjajiva even as it watched anxiously the failing health of King Bhumibol, 83. Now the electorate, infused with a push from the often poor and long disenfranchised rural area, has tossed out the old guard, much as it tried to do in in first electing Thaksin himself back in 2001. Under a cloud of allegations that the billionaire PM had enriched himself through telecom and other dealings, he was removed by the military in 2006 and went into exile, where until now he has remained under threat of trial in Bangkok.
All the while, multinational industrial companies have continued to invest in Thailand, separated geographically and psychologically from the tumult in the capital. Tourism, after suffering first from a royalist (yellow-shirt) occupation of the main airport and then from street-fighting and arson near an encampment of protesting red shirts, was coming back.
Does this mean political clear sailing and an end to instability? Not necessarily, reports Sky News:
It is hoped the election will end the country’s long running political crisis – but some fear it might trigger a new era of instability…..
“It is now a foregone conclusion that Puea Thai will lead the next government even by itself,” political science professor Somjai Phagaphasvivat said.
“But I expect it to bring in small coalition partners which will not only inflate its already sizeable majority but also further weaken the opposition.”
Observers are waiting to see when former prime minister Mr Thaksin will now return from exile.
“I want to go back to Thailand but I will wait for the right moment” Mr Thaksin told Reuters.
Mr Thaksin, a billionaire ousted in a 2006 coup and former owner of Manchester City football club, currently lives in Dubai to avoid jail for graft charges he said were politically motivated.
“People want change and they get it. It tells you that a majority of people still want most of things that the ex-prime minister had done for the country in the past,” chief executive of Asia Plus securities Kongkiat Opaswongkarn said.
Professor Phagaphasvivat has warned that Thailand still has a rocky political road ahead.
“What we should watch is whether Puea Thai might exploit the overwhelming poll numbers, interpreting it as a public mandate for the party to bring Thaksin home quickly.”
Here’s an ITN report on the election:
The Financial times has this bio of Yingluck Shinawatra.
One question now being asked: was the opposition helped by the fact that Thai’s PM lacked the commontouch?
Reuters reports that the election results are particularly significant for Thailand’s women:
After six prime ministers in six years of sometimes bloody political upheaval, Thais might be excused for shrugging their shoulders about voting in number seven.
But this time there’s one big difference. The new prime minister will be a woman, the first to hold the position in Thailand.
Yingluck Shinawatra, a 44-year-old businesswoman who wasn’t even in politics two months ago, is poised to get the top job after the stunning election victory of Puea Thai (For Thais), whose de facto leader is her brother, fugitive ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Yingluck, known as Pou (Crab), the nickname her parents gave her, has never run for office or held a government post, so she has a lot to prove to show she can run the country.
But some Thais, especially females, want to give her the benefit of the doubt and see this as a big step for women in a country where they have struggled for equal representation in government.
“I’ve always wanted to have the first lady prime minister,” said Areerak Saelim, 42-year-old owner of a sunglass shop in a Bangkok market.
“I’ve seen too many men failing to run the country. Maybe this time, things will be different. What women are — and men aren’t — is meticulous . I’m pretty sure she can do the job based on her age and successful career.”