Thailand's Thaksin Claims Victory With 60% of Votes
(Corrects fourth paragraph on story that ran on April 3 to say Thaksin called election three years early.)
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra claimed victory with 60 percent of the votes in yesterday's snap polls as he said he will do ``whatever it takes'' to resolve the crisis, including resigning.
Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party got 16 million votes, compared with about 10 million for `no votes' and other parties, the premier said, speaking live on state television in Bangkok this evening. Thaksin, 56, said he will set up a committee comprising respected senior figures to help end the political crisis and would step down if it asked him to.
``I want reconciliation in the country,'' Thaksin said, ``whatever it takes.'' He said if a resolution could be more easily achieved ``without me in the job'' then ``I will tell the 16 million who voted for me that I have to go.''
Thaksin, whose party was unopposed in 70 percent of the 400 available seats after a boycott by the three main opposition party, previously said he would step down if his Thai Rak Thai party won less than 50 percent of the vote. He called the elections three years early to secure his leadership mandate amid mounting protests in the capital, Bangkok, where activists have been demanding his resignation since November.
The prime minister, speaking on Channel 11, said he planned to convene parliament as soon as possible, and move ahead with his commitment to amend the constitution. He said he will form a parliament as soon the Election Commission had overseen the successful election of all 500 members.
Thaksin said on March 29 he would ask parliament to authorize an independent panel to review and amend Thailand's constitution after the election.
Out of 278 Thai Rak Thai seats that were uncontested, 38 failed to garner enough votes yesterday, according to preliminary results today. Each unopposed candidate needed to win support from at least 20 percent of eligible voters or face new elections until the requirements are met.
Thaksin said that if he stepped down, the new prime minister should come from within the ranks of Thai Rak Thai, as it was the legitimate winner of yesterday's poll. He rejected suggestions by the opposition that King Bhumibol Adulyadej appoint an interim prime minister. ``That proposal is not democratic,'' he said.
He said his deputy Bhokin Bhalakula, who was Speaker of the House in the recently dissolved parliament, and Commerce Minister Somkid Jatusripitak would be two of four potential candidates to replace him if he stepped down. Thaksin didn't name the other two.
The Bangkok Post today reported that Thaksin planned to resign and hand over leadership of the party to Bhokin, citing a source in Thaksin's party it did not identify. It quoted other sources saying leading party figures wanted Somkid, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, as the new leader.
Once the constitution is amended, new elections will be held in about a year, he said. And if he does resign?
``Whether I come back to run in the next election is my business,'' Thaksin said.
Elected prime minister in January 2001, Thaksin is the only leader to have completed a four-year term since the abolition of the kingdom's absolute monarchy in 1932.
He won a second term in February last year when his party captured a record 375 seats out of 500 in the lower house of parliament, delivering the first absolute majority in the country's history.
To contact the reporter on this story: Beth Jinks in Bangkok at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bruce Grant in Hong Kong at email@example.com.