Thai Opposition Leader to Become Pm
In a major political breakthrough in beleaguered Thailand, Opposition party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva won a majority of votes in Parliament today and was expected to be named Thailand's next prime minister.
The new Prime minister election followed months of instability caused by anti-government demonstrations that culminated late last month with a weeklong takeover of Bangkok's two airports.
The airport siege ended after a court ruling on Dec. 2 dissolved the ruling People's Power Party and two coalition partners and handed a five-year political ban to former premier Somchai Wongsawat, who is Thaksin's brother-in-law.
British-born Democrat Party leader Abhisit will head up a weak coalition government after winning a parliamentary vote nearly two weeks after a court dissolved the ruling party linked to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Dozens of angry Thaksin supporters clad in red shirts clashed with police and threw traffic barriers outside the gates of parliament to try to prevent lawmakers from leaving after the session.
"Abhisit gained more than half of the vote, therefore I declare that Abhisit has been voted as the new prime minister," House Speaker Chai Chidchob announced.
He said 44-year-old Abhisit won 235 votes to 198 for ex-police chief Pracha Promnog, who had been proposed by the former ruling party and its allies.
Oxford-educated Abhisit gave no immediate indication of the direction his government would take but has previously said his priorities were restoring the economy and forging political unity after months of turmoil.
Loyalists gathered round him and offered congratulations after the vote, which came amid reports of MPs being locked in hotels and having their mobile phones confiscated as rival parties battled to form a new government.
The vote follows six months of increasingly disruptive protests by the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which peaked with a week-long blockade of Bangkok's airports beginning in late November.
The turmoil left 350,000 passengers stranded and has badly hit Thailand's international image and its economy, with GDP growth forecast at just two per cent next year.