Thai 29 by-elections may give PM small boost
The votes were called to fill the seats of 29 MPs banned from politics for five years by a Dec. 2 court ruling.
Thais go to the polls in 29 by-elections on Sunday, but the results are unlikely to make much difference to the majority of new Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva as he concentrates on measures to revive the economy.
Few upsets are expected in the votes, which were called to fill the seats of 29 MPs banned from politics for five years by a Dec. 2 court ruling that dissolved the previous People Power Party-led (PPP) administration for vote fraud.
The coalition led by Abhisit's Democrat party and a PPP splinter group has a parliamentary majority of 37, with 235 MPs in its camp against 198 in an opposition still broadly backing former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, ousted in a 2006 coup.
The seats of 11 banned PPP politicians are almost certain to go to its successor, Puea Thai, which now leads the opposition.
Some minor parties were also banned. Three seats held by Matchima Tipataya are almost certain to end up pro-Democrat, and most of the 15 Chart Thai seats up for grabs could also go to the camp of Abhisit, a 44-year-old Oxford-educated economist.
If voting goes as analysts expect, Abhisit will end up with a majority of around 40, but will remain heavily dependent on his smaller partners, most notably the 'Friends of Newin' PPP splinter group, led by banned, up-country political wheeler-dealer Newin Chidchob.
Newin was Thaksin's right-hand man for much of his five years in office but jumped into bed with the Democrats after last month's court ruling.
His defection provided a short-term way out of the political stasis that has gripped Thailand for the past three years, although few analysts expect Abhisit's government, which has little support outside Bangkok or the south, to last long.
With many rural voters in the northeast still pro-Thaksin, a general election would be likely to bring in a government broadly sympathetic to the exiled telecoms billionaire, infuriating Bangkok's middle classes and elite, who despise him.
Residents of Bangkok also vote for a new governor on Sunday after the Democrat who was elected in October stepped down the following month to fight corruption allegations.
Reuters Last Mod: 09 Ocak 2009, 12:15