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POLITICAL REALIGNMENT

Abhisit poised to be PM as democrats seek house vote


Pheu Thai tries to woo back fleeing allies with offer of premiership

As Abhisit Vejjajiva inches towards becoming the 27th prime minister of Thailand, his Democrat Party will gather signatures from at least one-third of the MPs today before calling for a special parliamentary session to elect a new prime minister.

The Pheu Thai party continues to rival the Democrat Party in forming the new government and has softened its position by saying it is ready to allow its current coalition partners to propose their own candidates to be the prime minister.

Suthep Thaugsuban, secretary-general of the Democrat Party, has been assigned to gather the signatures from the MPs. He will file the motion at 10.30am with House speaker Chai Chidchob, who in turn will seek royal endorsement to convene the extraordinary session.

Parliament by law will have to vote on a new prime minister within 30 days after Somchai Wongsawat's departure.

Smiles were everywhere at the Democrat Party. The atmosphere was jubilant as it appeared that the grand old party had secured more than half of the representatives in Parliament to form the next coalition government.

The Democrats have drawn about 250 House votes, consisting of 166 from the Democrats and the rest from the Newin Chidchob and Sora-at factions in the now-defunct People Power Party, Chart Thai, Matchima Thipataya, Puea Pandin and Ruamjai Thai Chat Pattana.

Newin Chidchob, once Thaksin's right-hand man, is defecting from People Power with about 37 MPs. The Newin and Sora-at groups are critical in tipping the balance of power in Parliament in favour of the Democrat Party, which has been confined to the opposition since 2001.

Abhisit said he would like to thank all the MPs who have extended their support for the Democrat to form the next coalition government.

"The next step is the opening of a special parliamentary session to vote for the new prime minister. I and other fellow Democrats are determined to do our best to tackle the problems of the country," he said. "Any MPs who believe that we can manage the country's problems can join us."

Suthep also expressed confidence that there would not be any incident preventing the Democrats from forming the next coalition government.

The Democrats welcomed Sakol Muangsiri, a former People Power member, as their new member. Sakol also brought along his two brothers, who serve as Bangkok city councillor and district councillor, to join the Democrats.

The Pheu Thai Party, the reincarnation of the defunct People Power Party, is facing the prospect of becoming the opposition. It is now left with only one ally, the Pracharaj Party of Snoh Thienthong, and some other MPs.

But Pheu Thai has promised to put up a big fight to form the new government. Yesterday it held a meeting to elect Yongyuth Wichaidit as the new leader of the party.

Yongyuth said his party's first priority was to try to form an elected government.

He added that his party was offering a chance for the current coalition partners to propose their own candidates to be the new prime minister. The remark points to a softening of the Pheu Thai Party stance. Earlier it had always insisted that the new PM must come from its party, while coalition partners had suggested the new PM should be from small and medium parties, not from the Pheu Thai Party.

 "We will separate the party's executives from the country's executives. Unlike the other parties, we don't allow our party's executives to run the country," the new party leader said.

Former premier Somchai Wongsawat and his wife Yaowapa also observed the Pheu Thai's meeting to vote for the new executive board at the party's headquarters.

Yongyuth was the only candidate for party leader. He was nominated by acting party registrar Kamol Bandaiphet.

Yinglak Shinawatra, a sister of ex-prime minister Thaksin, who was sitting in the front row, seemed surprised that her name was not put forward as a candidate for the party leader.


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