19 January 2008

"Joining the government
won't be a problem..."

The formation of a coalition government is now almost complete. Following the dissolution of TRT, it was reincarnated as the People Power Party, led by Samak Sundaravej, and the PPP won last month's election though without an overall majority. Samak is now likely to become Prime Minister, taking over from Surayud Chulanont, who was appointed by the coup-makers. (The country also has a new constitution, as the the draft charter was endorsed by 57.81% of voters in last year's referendum.)

Before the election, candidates and factions were grouping and regrouping on a daily basis, with seemingly no consideration of party ideology whatsoever. In the end, every other political party except the Democrats has joined in a PPP coalition. The final coalition partners, Puea Paendin and Chart Thai, announced their membership yesterday, after more than two weeks of negotiations; they had used the mourning period following the death of Princess Galyani to buy themselves more time. Chart Thai's leader, the slippery Banharn Silpaarcha, announced that "joining the government won't be a problem".

The Thai Supreme Court yesterday dismissed six cases against the PPP and the Election Commission. The New Aspiration Party had alleged that the Commission was not authorised to organise absentee ballots and advance voting before the election. Democrat candidate Chaiwat Sinsuwong claimed that the PPP was not legally allowed to contest the election, as it is a TRT nominee, Samak is a Thaksin proxy, and PPP candidates distributed Thaksin VCDs. All of these complaints have been dismissed by the Supreme Court. (The Democrats had actually asked Chaiwat to withdraw his allegations, though he has now resigned from the party.)

The PPP's last obstacle was Yongyuth Tiyaphairat, one of the Party's deputy leaders. He was among many PPP candidates accused of vote-buying, and he has been under EC investigation. The EC must endorse at least 95% of MPs before a new parliamentary term can begin. Thus, the EC were under pressure to complete their vote-buying investigations as soon as possible. Fearing demonstrations from PPP supporters, the EC delegated the Yongyuth investigation to a sub-committee. Then, when Yongyuth was invited to view the evidence against him (an incriminating VCD), he missed the appointment. However, Yongyuth has now received EC endorsement. Indeed, the EC rushed to endorse some twenty-nine candidates yesterday, in order to meet the deadline. Previously, candidates had been endorsed in dribs and drabs, averaging three per day, so the investigations into the final twenty-nine were extremely hurried.