Thai parliament opens first session, Yingluck to be Prime Minister

Updated On: Aug 02, 2011

Thailand's parliament has opened its first session since the July elections, paving the way for Yingluck Shinawatra to assume office as the new Prime Minister.

Today's vote for the new House Speaker will consolidate Pheu Thai Party's grip on parliament's Lower House.

On Monday, the Pheu Thai party agreed to nominate Somsak Kiatsuranot as the new House Speaker. Somsak is an experienced Pheu Thai MP from the north-eastern Khon Kaen province, who has previously served as Deputy House Speaker and has held ministerial portfolios.

Somsak and his two deputies are likely to be voted in today, as Pheu Thai and their coalition partners hold some 300 seats out of the 500 seat house.

After receiving royal endorsement, the new House Speaker will then hold another session to vote for the country's new Prime Minister by next week. This means Yingluck Shinawatra and her new government may formally take office by the end of August.

At the same time, outgoing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva looks set to lead the Democrat Party for a second term. He will also serve as opposition leader.

Report: Pheu Thai Party Nominates New House Speaker, Deputies [Bernama, 1 August 2011]

Ahead of the parliamentary session, a list of potential cabinet ministers has been leaked to the media. Pheu Thai insiders suspect the party's real powerbrokers - Yingluck, her brother Thaksin and his ex-wife Khunying Pojaman na Pombejra, finalised their decisions on the allocation of ministerial portfolios about a week ago.

The Bangkok Post reports that General Yuthasak Sasiprapa will likely be the new defence minister, while Police General Pracha Promnok will be the interior minister.

Ex-banker Olarn Chaiprawat is tipped to be the new education minister, while Chalerm Yubamrung and Wiroon Techapaibul are expected to be made justice and commerce ministers, respectively.

A number of outsiders are likely to be put in charge of the Prime Minister's Office as well as finance and energy ministries. Public reaction to the line-up of likely ministers in Ms. Yingluck's government has been positive, even though some of them do not have political experience.

Analysis: Khao sod comment [Bangkok Post, 2 August 2011]

For those left out of the cabinet, the consolation prizes will be advisory positions and seats in various legislative committees.

However, it is still unclear how all the 'red shirts' (pro-Thaksin and anti-Democrat politicians), will be included in the new government. The new ruling Pheu Thai-led coalition is obliged to find suitable assignments for 'red' MPs left out of the Cabinet and unable to lead House committees due to lack of seniority.

Commentators say Ms. Yingluck cannot afford to antagonise the red shirts if her government is to succeed in bringing about reconciliation.

Analysis: New political phase set to begin [The Nation, 2 August 2011]

The incoming government will face significant challenges as it takes power. Some analysts have even questioned whether Ms. Yingluck's administration will last its full term.

The 44-year-old sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is a largely unknown quantity and a newcomer to politics. Until three months ago she was a low-profile businesswoman.

She has promised the sort of populist policies that made her brother Thaksin a champion of Thailand's rural poor and working class, before he was ousted by the military in 2006 on corruption charges.

In her election campaign, Ms. Yingluck promised to increase the minimum wage by as much as 40 per cent, raise prices for rice producers and build new infrastructure such as high-speed rail lines. But Thailand's central bank has warned that these policies will lead to higher inflation.

Ms Yingluck is also taking over a deeply divided country. While the electoral commission has provisionally endorsed almost all MPs, allowing the country's parliament to meet, it is still investigating more than 500 complaints of electoral misdeeds.

However, analysts say any challenge to Ms. Yingluck's government is likely to take some time to emerge. The incoming government will also probably focus on less controversial economic programmes before moving on to more divisive topics, such as an amnesty for the currently self-exiled Thaksin.

Analysis: Thai parliament begins first post-election session [Financial Times, 1 August 2011]

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