Published on December 24, 2007
The People Power Party, which emerged on top in yesterday's general election, is expected to discuss with smaller political parties this morning in a bid to form a new government, sources said last night.
Key figures from the PPP would meet their counterparts from Matchima Thipataya, Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana, and Pracharaj at the Radisson Hotel, a source said.
If successful, this coalition would have 253 MPs, a very slim margin as the opposition would have 227 MPs.
Meanwhile, Puea Pandin, which was previously expected to join a PPP-led coalition government, is likely to have talks with the PPP because its leader Suwit Khunkitti failed to win a seat in Khon Kaen.
Puea Pandin came fourth with 24 seats in last night's result.
Another reason is that Vatana Asavahame, Puea Pandin's chief adviser and key financier, has had a sour relationship with ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra. He asked the party not to join a PPP-led coalition.
Within the PPP, conflict was brewing among key figures about who should become the next prime minister following a rumour that Chart Thai Party leader Banharn Silapa-archa met Privy Council President Prem Tinsulanonda to discuss the election outcome. Banharn told Prem that he was prepared to become prime minister in a PPP-led coalition government, according to a source.
With Chart Thai included, a PPP coalition would have more than 290 MPs.
As of press time, 93 per cent of the ballots had been counted. About 30.6 million people, or 67 per cent of the total 45.6 million eligible voters, exercised their right, said Election Commission Chairman Apichart Sukhag-ganond.
People Power leader Samak Sundaravej said earlier last night he was ready to become prime minister after his party clinched 231 of the 480 seats in the lower House.
But the Democrats' Abhisit Vejjajiva was late in the evening still refusing to concede defeat.
Samak said: "I have to become prime minister, for sure. We're short of about 10 seats but we can invite other parties to form a coalition with a total of 270 to 280 seats. This is normal practice in other countries".
Samak waited for about five hours after the ballot boxes closed before appearing at a press conference at the party HQ at about 9pm with key PPP members, including Surapong Suebwonglee, to announce his intention to become PM by forming the new government.
Samak said he was extending an invitation to all parties to form the new government with the PPP so the country can move on again. He said the military coup had damaged the country over the past 15 months.
Abhisit appeared in a news conference about 15 to 20 minutes after Samak to say the race for the premiership was only about to begin.
He said he would let Samak and other parties try to form a government first but if they failed to do so, it would be his party's responsibility to form the new administration.
Yesterday's election result shows a deep divide between rural and urban voters, plus the North and the South.
People Power, a reincarnation of Thai Rak Thai, commanded the most votes, winning in the North and Northeast, while the Democrats captured the South and Bangkok, plus the second greatest number of votes.
Currently, PPP is expected to win 231 MP seats, followed by 163 for the Democrats, 39 for Chat Thai, 24 for Puea Pandin, 12 for Ruam Jai Thai Chat Pattana, 7 for Matchima Thipataya, and 4 for Pracharaj.
Abhisit made it clear his party would not join People Power, and said it was the right of other parties to determine what was the best course for the country.
"We have to wait and see how other parties will respond to the invitation of the PPP. If the PPP fails to form the new government, it would be our responsibility to form the next government instead," he said.
For the time being, the Democrats would sit and wait. He also sent a message to Samak that he should think about the nation first before thinking about the interest of former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the 111 former executives of the Thai Rak Thai, who have been banned from politics for five years.
A People Power Party executive said preliminary estimates showed it would clinch 230 seats, although several of its Northeast candidates could be disqualified.
"But we're still No 1 and have legitimacy to form the next government. To ensure we have enough votes, we'll bring in the Chart Thai and Puea Pandin parties as partners in the government," the executive said.
Later, another PPP source said the party had decided to drop Chart Thai from its list of potential coalition partners and would aim to form the new government with Puea Pandin, Ruam Jai Thai Chat Pattana and Matchima Thipataya, who are made up of ex-Thai Rak Thai members.
If PPP succeeds in linking up with these three minor parties, it would have some 274 MPs - not counting any who might be struck off for electoral violations. This would amount to a resurrection of Thai Rak Thai.
With a rather wide margin enjoyed by People Power, the chances of a Democrat fightback appeared slim at press time.
Banharn was not seen in public late yesterday. After voting closed at 3pm, he disappeared from sight as he attempted to avoid an army of reporters.
His son Warawut said Banharn was not at home.
There was also a report that if Banharn became prime minister, the junta, which removed Thaksin Shinawatra from power last year, would not oppose the result.
Jakrapop Penkhair, a key member of People Power, claimed Prem had sought to influence the poll outcome by summoning the heads of the Chart Thai and Puea Pandin parties to meet him.
About two months ago, Banharn and Sanan Kachornprasart travelled to meet Thaksin in London to discuss a future government.
Thaksin was said to have "locked in" support from Puea Pandin in the event that People Power failed to win a clear majority.
But Banharn has wavered back and forth and been non-committal in recent weeks, as to which side he would support.