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Snap elections, opposition boycott and talk of military coup: Will Thaksin topple?

Updated On: Feb 28, 2006

It is hard to say who will take the helm of Thailand in the near future.

In a bid to maintain his hold on power, PM Thaksin decided to dissolve the House and call for a snap election on 2nd April 2006. This apparently has riled his opponents such that as many as 100,000 people attended the mass protest at Sanam Luang on Sunday.

Opposition parties have also threatened to boycott the elections because  PM Thaksin was non-committal to the opposition parties' calls for political reform and consultations.. Their participation in the snap elections was supposed to be conditional upon a new proposal for consultations among the four main political parties and the signing of a joint declaration on constitutional amendments towards reform.

Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Democrat party leader, insisted political reform was necessary. "If society does not think over this question, we will simply go from one crisis to another… The fielding or withholding of candidates is less important because elections constituted only one step in a democratic process.” Mr Abhisit recommended that Article 313 of the constitution be amended “so that neutral people appointed by the King could take charge of constitutional amendments.”

Even the army may now act against PM Thaksin. General Panlop Pinmanee, deputy chief of the Internal Security Operations Command (Isoc) said that a military coup may occur if political instability persists. However, organizing such a coup would be difficult as PM Thaksin’s allies in the army would move to prevent such an incident. General Panlop believes in the integrity of the army, saying, "When the country is in a shambles, I trust the soldiers will act professionally and not become the personal protector of the prime minister or the government.”

Nonetheless, PM Thaksin remains unfazed. The Thai Rak Thai party still sees him as winning card and that his populist policies –like the 30-baht health care scheme –will secure his third consecutive term in office. Prime Minster's Office Minister Suranand Vejjajiva said, “Mr Thaksin, in the eyes of most of the public, is still an outstanding leader and people throughout the country still trust him and believe he has what it takes… Party morale is high and after speaking to local people in the last few days I am sure that we are poised for a comeback.''

Sources:

Thaksin still TRT's best asset Bangkok Post, 26 February 2006

April 2 election 'will be dirtiest in Thailand's political history' Bangkok Post, 26 February 2006

PM cool on calls for political reform Bangkok Post, 27 February 2006

Panlop: Military coup possible Bangkok Post, 27 February 2006

PM given ultimatum The Nation, 27 February 2006