Speculation rife over who'll fill PM's post
Speculation about Thaksin Shinawatra's possible successor bubbled over following his televised vow yesterday that he would not seek the post of premier in the next government.
Three key members of his Thai Rak Thai Party have stood out as candidates to replace him and lead the new government during a transition dominated by political reform.
They are party-list contenders Bhokin Bhalakula, Somkid Jatu-sripitak and Sudarat Keyuraphan.
Former Parliament President Bhokin is the top contender, ac-cording to a Thai Rak Thai source who said Thaksin's wife Pojaman had thrown her full support behind him. Bhokin is a constitutional expert.
Bhokin took a prominent role as Thaksin's key legal adviser as the leadership crisis deepened. Bhokin has been examining all possible legal channels in the Constitution that could help Thai Rak Thai form the new government.
He has advised Thaksin on how to handle political reform after the election and argued against all those who sought a "royally sponsored prime minister".
However, Bhokin is unpopular with the party's MPs and its leading executives, as he is seen as being interested only in legal issues. His critics worry that he will be an ineffective manager of the economy.
Thaksin and Bhokin have been close since 1997 when they were in the administration of then Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh.
Deputy PM and Commerce Minister Somkid is considered by many outsiders to be the best choice to succeed Thaksin.
Business leaders have been quite vocal about their support for him, as they are worried about the fallout from political turmoil on economic growth. They believe Somkid is best suited to allaying their concerns. As a finance minister in the first term of the Thaksin government, Somkid succeeded in winning the confidence of business leaders and economists.
Thaksin has praised Somkid for his economic management. Som-kid is the author of the Thai Rak Thai's economic platform and the populist policies that have helped it win elections.
Throughout five years in power, however, Somkid has demonstrated strong leadership, a trait needed at a critical time when Thaksin and his party face pressure from all sides.
Key party members are said to doubt that Somkid will be able to protect Thaksin from those seeking to scrutinise allegations involving the controversial sale of Shin Corp.
Thaksin appears to trust Bhokin more than Somkid as the former is more responsive to Thaksin's instructions. Somkid has had "breaks" with Thaksin and has been accused of "disobedience", party sources say.
Sudarat, however, is seen as having the least chance of the three.
The close aide of Thaksin is considered a last-resort to be selected only if the others refused to take the "temporary top job".
Her appeal has plunged as the party's Bangkok's candidates fell short of the "no vote" ticks in nearly 30 of 36 constituencies.
Although party executives will name his successor, Thaksin will have the final say.