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Question loom over new Prime Minister's legitimacy

Legitimacy, or lack there of, is the main problem faced by prime minister-elect Abhisit Vejjajiva.

It was made clear on Monday, soon after he became Thailand's 27th prime minister, when some supporters of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra attacked vehicles of MPs leaving the Parliament. The International Herald Tribune's Asia edition carried photographs of these red-shirted protesters on its front page. Not exactly the kind of PR Abhisit would

have wanted.

The problem began on December 6, when Army Chief Gen Anuphong Paochinda invited key politicians to offer them "advice" on what the new coali-tion should look like. Newin Chidchob, a former Thaksin aide who over the past few months was disenfranchised by his multi-billionaire boss, decided to exploit the situation. The Democrats and the military jumped in as well.

No wonder it is believed that on Monday, a "silent coup" was staged by the military, with back-ing from Abhisit, Newin, the self-styled People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) and their sup-porters.

The "election" of Abhisit was a coup so quiet that it even caught anti-coup activists like Chotisak Onsoong off-guard. From day one academics and activists, including Chotisak, questioned Abhisit's legitimacy. And it does-n't seem likely that the PM can convince them

otherwise - espe-cially since some people are already calling this government a puppet of the military.

This would not have been pos-sible if the PAD had not seized the two airports and if the Constitu-tion Court had not dissolved three parties, including the People Power Party.

The PAD, which has a Democrat MP as one of its core leaders, was quick to declare victory. The renamed ASTV Manager Daily ran photos of PAD members celebrating Abhisit's victory.

Khamnoon Sitthisamarn, a columnist and editor at the paper, wrote on Monday that the new "political phenomena" with Abhisit as PM "was genuinely a PAD victory!" The editor, who is also an appointed senator, how-ever did admit in his column that this was an "Anuphong-style coup d'etat."

This comes from some-one who has first-hand experience in military intervention - Khamnoon was made member of the National Legislative Assembly soon after the 2006 coup.

Yesterday, the paper shame-lessly ran an "instructive" article on its front page, which said that former diplomat Kasit Piromya, de facto PAD "foreign" specialist, was "ready" to be Foreign Minister. By the way, Kasit is a Democrat Party member and until Monday, was a shadow deputy PM of the party.

Without the months-long protest which paralysed the Samak Sundaravej regime and the puppet government of Somchai Wongsawat, and dealt a deathblow through the blockade of Suvarnabhumi and Don Mueang airports, Anuphong would never have had such lever-age and Abhisit would not have been able to exploit the situation.

Still, business people remain ter-rified that a new Thaksin proxy government would bring the PAD back to the streets and cause even more damage.

Now one wonders how PM-elect Abhisit would reward Democrat MP-cum-PAD-co-leader Somkiat Pongpaiboon for a job "well done". How can the PAD "scrutinise" the new admin-istration when one of its five co-leaders is a Democrat MP?

The Constitution Court's ruling was also questioned as being politically motivated and the dis-solution of parties was viewed by some as too harsh.

As both sides continue using dirty tactics, regardless of the rule of law and decency, the last thing anyone should expect is an end to the social and political division.

Chulalongkorn University political scientist Ji Ungpakorn suggested that Abhisit dissolve the parliament after 12 months to return power to the people. Judging from the protests over the past two days, the situation may worsen much sooner than expected. Just like the PAD, who claimed that neither Thaksin nor Samak and Somchai were their leaders, now the red shirts and the anti-coup camp are claiming "Abhisit is not their prime minister".

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