Thai PM gets small boost from by-elections

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva received a boost from weekend by-elections, increasing his parliamentary majority by 11 seats to 48, domestic media reported on Monday.

Thai PM gets small boost from by-elections
The Bangkok Post said Abhisit's coalition, led by his Democrat party, picked up 20 seats in Sunday's run-off. The opposition Puea Thai party and its allies only gained nine seats, according to the paper.

The by-elections were called to replace 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 results were broadly in line with expectations, although analysts had expected PPP substitute, Puea Thai, to fare slightly better and gain 11 seats, rather than just nine.

Even though the parliamentary numbers now look slightly stronger for Abhisit as he tackles an economy teetering on the brink of recession, analysts said the results could weaken his hand within the coalition since the gains were accounted by allies of his Democrat party.

"There are two margins here -- the margin of the coalition over the opposition, and the margin within the coalition," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Bangkok's Chulalongkorn University.

"The less margin the Democrats have within in the coalition, the less leverage they have. That is important when they have no confidence debates," he said.

Abhisit's key coalition partner is Newin Chidchob, an up-country political wheeler-dealer banned from politics after the 2006 coup against Thaksin Shinawatra.

Newin was one of Thaksin's closest allies, but his "Friends of Newin" faction split from the pro-Thaksin Puea Thai late last year to jump into bed with the Democrats and allow them to break months of political stalemate.

In a separate election for Bangkok governor, Democrat candidate Sukhumbhand Paribatra, a former foreign ministry official, scored an overwhelming victory.

Last Mod: 12 Ocak 2009, 12:44
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