Published on December 25, 2007
But the poll results are far from a blank cheque for the party to push an agenda dictated by personal interest.
Therefore, it's quite regrettable that one of the first things PPP leader Samak Sundaravej said he would do as prime minister is to seek amnesty for the 111 former executives of the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai party. There is no question that Samak, a self-confessed nominee of the self-exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, is dancing to his political master's tune.
The Thai people have spoken loud and clear through the ballot box: they are still as divided as they were almost two years ago. Voters in the North and Northeast have again demonstrated their unwavering loyalty to the former prime minister by voting overwhelmingly for candidates from the reincarnation of Thai Rak Thai. Meanwhile, those in Bangkok and the South voted for the Democrat Party to show how strongly they detested the man who they believe ruled with an iron hand and systematically plundered the nation.
So, instead of bringing about political reconciliation, the election only highlighted the political divide that is unlikely to be bridged any time soon. The political animosity that resulted from five years of Thaksin's rule will continue to haunt the country unless all sides concerned make a genuine effort toward reconciliation. But with Thaksin still pulling the strings, political peace is something that one should not expect in the near future.
Samak is now only one step away from becoming Thailand's next prime minister. Barring any last-minute political incident, the PPP will form the core of a coalition that will likely embrace most of the medium-sized and small parties, leaving the Democrats out in the cold. But an absolute House majority is no guarantee for stability and longevity for the PPP-led coalition.
As long as the new government is seen as operating under Thaksin's shadow, it will be hounded by distrust and even resistance from those who voted against the PPP, especially the Bangkok middle class. This is not to say that these people are rejecting the election results, but rather that they see Samak and the PPP as nothing more than Thaksin's puppets - their only mission being to pave the way for his political revival.
Samak has repeatedly insisted that one of his priorities will be to introduce a bill to seek amnesty for the 111 former Thai Rak Thai executives. Of course, it's just a smokescreen for Thaksin's political reinstatement.
Defiantly defending Thaksin against all charges of corruption and conflicts of interest, Samak has also vowed to have the Assets Examination Committee set up by the military junta abrogated. The committee has been a key instrument used by the coup-makers to build up cases against the former prime minister.
While one could question the legitimacy of the military-appointed mechanism, there have never been any doubts that Thaksin and his cronies were engaged in massive corruption. And all the members of the investigation commission are well respected, highly credible figures. Besides, all the charges filed against Thaksin, and those still pending, will eventually have to be decided by the courts.
Samak will certainly run the risk of inflaming those who want to see justice served if he tries to interfere with the investigations. The People's Alliance for Democracy, which spearheaded the year-long anti-Thaksin demonstration that eventually triggered the former prime minister's downfall, has already vowed to take to the streets again if Samak moves to seek amnesty for the former Thai Rak Thai executives or meddle with the corruption investigations against Thaksin.
Samak needs to be reminded that his party's poll victory doesn't represent a blank cheque for him to pursue what is not in the public interest. And having the 111 former Thai Rak Thai politicians pardoned or whitewashing Thaksin certainly is not something that can be considered to be in public interest.
Besides tackling the worsening economic problems and soaring cost of living, a top priority for the new government is to heal the political rift that has so polarised the country so society can move forward. But judging from Samak's stand so far, it looks like he is bent on pushing the country toward a new political showdown.
Because of the continuing political polarisation, most political observers have predicted a potential for violent political confrontation in the aftermath of the election. And it appears that Samak - apparently with Thaksin's blessing - will want to make that prophecy come true.