Published on August 25, 2007
"I recognise the word 'nominee' positively because nominees have brought economic progress and prosperity to this country," Samak said.
"[In this case] I will be a nominee of Thaksin. I will make this party strong to restore the democracy of the country," he said.
Samak was elected by 80 votes to 33 at the assembly of the People Power Party, which recently admitted nearly 300 former MPs from Thaksin's now disbanded Thai Rak Thai party.
Samak thanked the party's members and said he came back into politics because the allegations against Thaksin that the junta gave as reasons for ousting him were unfair.
The coup-makers cited four reasons: rampant corruption, severe social division, interference in independent organisations, and acts of lese majeste.
"The military attempted to do everything to eradicate Thaksin once and for all," Samak said.
Samak defended Thaksin against the lese majeste charge, saying it was a nonsensical allegation. He insisted Thaksin had never abused the monarchy, which was the reason he decided to help the deposed premier.
He also defended Thaksin against allegations of corruption. "Whoever accuses others of cheating should look at their own reflection. I am ready to counter whoever attacks me or the party," he said.
Samak said he wanted to help the People Power Party to win the election and lead the country's return to democracy.
"The party now has a new leader - me, Samak Sundaravej," he declared. "Now the party will campaign for the election under the law, the Election Commission can look into all of our actions and the people will judge us."
Former leading members of Thai Rak Thai who attended the party assembly at Centara Grand Hotel at CentralWorld included Surapong Suebwonglee, Newin Chidchob and Sora-at Klinprathoom.
The meeting was also attended by Thaksin's mother-in-law, Pojanee na Pomphet, and Noppadon Pattama, his legal adviser.
Surapong was elected party secretary-general and Noppadon his deputy.
Yongyuth Tiyapairat, who had kept a low profile since the coup on September 19 last year, caused a surprise when he was picked to be a deputy party leader.
The People Power Party plans to move headquarters from Don Mueang to the IFCT building, where the Thai Rak Thai had its offices. It is also adopting a new logo that is similar to Thai Rak Thai's logo.
People Power executive Suthin Klangsaeng said Samak gave party members "more spirit" because he was an outspoken character who dared to tell the truth when others might not. "It is an advantage for the party to have a person like Samak," he said.
Suthin admitted that some of the party executives elected yesterday were chosen by Thaksin. Former top Thai Rak Thai members sent a list of executives to Thaksin before the party assembly, he said.
"Yongyuth and Noppadon were approved by the former prime minister," he said.
Noppadon said he would help to draw up the party's policies for the election campaign. He also denied Samak was Thaksin's nominee.
Speaking after Samak's announcement, Democrat Party deputy leader Jurin Laksanavisit said democracy would return through the election and warned People Power not to do not anything to cause another collapse of democracy .
Democrat executive Sathit Wongnongtoei said that having Samak as the head of People Power wouldn't help resolve the political turmoil but, on the contrary, would create more political conflict.
"It's clear that he is Thaksin's nominee. He said he was ready to counterattack those that attacked Thaksin first. His reaction means that he turned to politics for revenge on Thaksin's opponents, who are the government and the Council National for Security," he said.
Trakul Meechai, political lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, said Thaksin can now control the PPP because his core Thai Rak Thai members are now executives in the party.
With the support enjoyed by former Thai Rak Thai members of parliament, Samak has high chances of becoming the next prime minister, Trakul said. If not, the PPP would make a strong opposition party.