Friday, July 1, 2011

Thailand braces for hotly contested election

Thaksin looms large as Thai parties make final campaign push

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Big rallies in Bangkok marked a final push by candidates in a national election on Sunday aimed at resolving Thailand's sometimes violent six-year political crisis but which many fear will only fuel more turbulence.
Opinion polls overwhelmingly favour the opposition Puea Thai (For Thais) party led by Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, figurehead of a red-shirted movement of the rural and urban poor whose protests last year sparked a bloody military crackdown.
The telegenic 44-year-old businesswoman and political novice has electrified supporters as Thailand's first possible elected female leader, vowing to revive Thaksin-style populist policies - from a minimum wage hike to subsidies for farmers.
Many of her supporters want her to go further and bring back Thaksin himself, their red t-shirts often emblazoned with the image of the former telecoms tycoon, who was removed in a 2006 military coup and lives in Dubai to evade jail for graft charges he says were politically motivated.
Recent polls suggest Puea Thai could win at least 240 seats in the 500-seat parliament, but that is no guarantee Yingluck will govern. Most doubt either side will secure an outright majority, opening the way for both to wheel and deal with smaller parties to form a coalition.More.

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