Thai politics

Yingluck, the army, and a “grand bargain”?

The Wall Street Journal points out that:

With Ms. Yingluck leading opinion polls, analysts said the key question is whether Thailand’s conservative armed forces will accept an outcome that places the youngest sister of exiled populist billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra—a former prime minister whom the army ousted in a coup five years ago—in Thailand’s top job.

And there’s this, later in the piece:

“Mr. Thaksin is pursuing a dual strategy,” Marc Saxer, Bangkok-based director of Germany’s Friedrich Ebert Foundation wrote in a research paper this week. “Puea Thai is supposed to collect the necessary political capital with a victory in the elections, with a view to prepare a ‘Grand Bargain’ with the traditional elites afterwards.”

The idea that Thaksin and members of the Thai establishment have reached a compromise about what happens after the election — assuming Puea Thai wins and is able to form a government — has been much discussed here in Bangkok in recent days.

Today’s Bangkok Post says:

Pheu Thai party list MP Wattana Muangsuk has dismissed a news report that he struck a deal with Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon to allow the party to form the next government without fear of opposition from the military.

And elsewhere, Wassana Nanuam, who covers the military, writes:

So, it came as no surprise when a news report emerged that Thaksin had sent Wattana Muangsuk, a former commerce minister in the Thaksin administration, to meet with Defence Minister Prawit Wongsuwon in Brunei in February.

(All emphasis mine.)

Stay tuned.

By the way, a programming note: I will continue blogging — and posting to Twitter — through Sunday’s election.

Future posts will cover news as it emerges, as well as a summary of resources for following the vote online.

In the meantime, Thailand watchers: What do you think about the state of play? Email me: newley AT gmail DOT COM to share your thoughts.

Thai politics

Aljazeera English on Yingluck in Khon Kaen

Al Jazeera English ran a story on Sunday featuring Yingluck in northeastern Thailand’s Khon Kaen province.

The video is embedded below and on YouTube here.

Thai politics

Economist on Thailand elections

An Economist story that ran yesterday says things are looking good for Puea Thai, but that it’s still unclear who will actually form the next government:

With little more than a week to go before polling day on July 3rd, it is clear that the opposition Pheu Thai (PT) party will win more seats than any other in Thailand’s 500-strong parliament. This will mark an extraordinary comeback for the unofficial leader of PT, Thaksin Shinawatra, a former prime minister ousted in a military coup in 2006 and now living in exile in Dubai as a fugitive from Thai justice. Some even predict that PT may win an outright majority, though a hung parliament looks more likely. But in Thai politics merely winning an election is not enough; whether PT gets to form a government is another matter entirely.

Thai politics

AP story on Yingluck

The AP says in a story today that “in the space of just a few weeks,” Yingluck “has catapulted to near rock star status on Thailand’s political stage, becoming the opposition’s main contender in the vote.”

The piece includes this snippet from the campaign trail in northeastern Thailand:

Holding the election was a key demand last year of the so-called Red Shirt protesters, tens of thousands of whom poured into Bangkok from the provinces and shut down parts of it by camping out downtown for two months.

One of them, civil servant Nutwara Autehaloek, said during one of Yingluck’s speeches in Trakarn Pheutphon that “if history repeats itself” — if the opposition legally wins but is prevented from governing — “we will return to Bangkok in greater numbers than before.”

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Economist on Yingluck’s campaign

The Economist‘s Banyan columnist says that Yingluck is charming, her campaign is well-executed, and that the Democrats are in trouble:

In sum, the naturalness and easy manner that Thais appreciate in Ms Yingluck is authentic—but the fact that it comes over so well is the result of a lot of sweat and forethought. I have covered many campaigns now both in rich and in developing countries, and Ms Yingluck’s campaign is among the best choreographed and organised that I’ve seen. And, of course, it helps enormously that she is pretty (“hot” in Thai political-science jargon) and has a big smile—which is just the sort of thing that newspaper editors look for to brighten up their front page every morning.

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NYT story on Yingluck in Nakhon Phanom

The NYT has a story about Yingluck Shinawatra from the campaign trail in Nakhon Phanom, northeastern Thailand. The lede says:

Former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a coup more than four years ago, is back at the center of Thai politics in the guise of the person he calls his clone: his younger sister Yingluck, who is a candidate for prime minister herself as the leader of the main opposition party.

There’s also a slideshow.

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Four Reuters stories on Thai politics

Reuters ran four stories about Thai politics yesterday. One calls Yingluck Shinawatra “populist but pro-business” and provides a summary of her potential business policies:

Private-sector reforms, corporate tax cuts, wage increases and a big boost in domestic consumption could be on the cards for Thailand if Yingluck Shinawatra becomes the country’s first female prime minister after the July 3 general election.

The second story, a summary of the parties facing off, says:

Forty parties will contest a July 3 general election in Thailand, with the ruling Democrat Party and opposition Puea Thai Party jostling for first place and others vying for stakes in what is expected to be a coalition government.

The third piece provides basic details on the number of voters, candidates, parties, etc:

500 seats are up for grabs, an increase of 20 from the 2007 election. There will be 375 constituency seats available from 76 provinces and the capital, Bangkok, which has a quota of 33 of those seats. The remaining 125 seats will be decided by the party list vote.

And finally, the fourth story, a feature, describes Thailand’s “red shirt villages.” From the nut graf:

Ahead of a July 3 national election, dozens of rural communities are branding themselves a “Red Shirt Village” in this poor northeast plateau, home to a third of the country’s population, giving the movement grass-roots muscle to mobilize behind its parliamentary allies, the opposition Puea Thai Party.

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WSJ: “Thaksin’s Sister Pulls Ahead in Thai Polls”

Today’s WSJ notes that:

Fugitive billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra’s bold move to name his youngest sister as a candidate for prime minister appears to be changing the complexion of Thailand’s coming elections–and might provide the controversial politician a ticket home after nearly three years in exile.

Initial opinion polls suggest Yingluck Shinawatra is now leading the race to form the next government. A Suan Dusit Rajabhat University poll released over the weekend shows her opposition For Thais Party gaining 43% of the vote—up from 41% a week earlier—compared with the 37% for the ruling Democrat Party.

(Emphasis mine.)

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Reuters on Yingluck Shinawatra and potential perjury charges

A Reuters story from yesterday says talk of potential perjury charges against Yingluck Shinawatra “deepens uncertainty” over the July 3 election:

Just days after Yingluck Shinawatra was chosen to lead Thailand’s opposition party in coming elections, she could be headed for a legal standoff over a case at the heart of a coup that toppled her twice-elected brother.

Kaewsun Atibhodhi, a former senator who pursued corruption cases against her brother Thaksin Shinawatra after the 2006 coup, said Yingluck could face perjury charges over testimony she gave during Thaksin’s asset concealment case two years ago.

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BKK Post and Nation: Thaksin’s younger sister as potential PM candidate

2011 04 12 yingluck

Today’s Bangkok Post and Nation are running stories about former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s younger sister, Yingluck, as the potential top Puea Thai party candidate in elections expected to take place in June or July.

Bangkok Post:

Thaksin pushes Yingluck for PM

Yingluck Shinawatra is expected to be named the Puea Thai Party’s No.1 party-list candidate, giving her an opportunity to become the country’s first female prime minister.

A Puea Thai source yesterday said the party’s key figures had travelled to meet former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, the party’s main supporter and de facto leader, in Dubai and they had agreed to put Ms Yingluck, Thaksin’s youngest sister, as No.1 on the party list and name her as a candidate for the premiership.


Problem with Yingluck as PM candidate is her brother loves her

Whether or not Thaksin Shinawatra will risk his beloved youngest sister Yingluck in politics has become a fascinating story, not least because it is a rare Thai political dilemma with real human elements.

While her possible nomination as Pheu Thai’s candidate to be prime minister may be good for the party, as she could romanticise the election campaign, the idea has its downside. She may end up being a sacrificial lamb.

Yingluck’s increasing presence in news headlines has to do with the fact that Mingkwan Saengsuwan faces the same fate as Yongyuth Wichaidit. Thaksin has tried and tested Mingkwan but is not satisfied. Last week’s messages from the man in exile were that the censure is over, and so is Mingkwan’s status as challenger to Abhisit Vejjajiva’s chief executive title.

No larger point to make here, but just wanted to point out the stories.

(Image: Bangkok Post.)