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Thai "stealth coup" threatens pro-Thaksin victory PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 07 January 2008

Fears of a post-election dirty tricks campaign by Thailand's old guard appear to be coming true. Having Thai "stealth coup" threatens pro-Thaksin victory come within a whisker of an outright majority in December's poll, the party backing ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra is facing an unusually high number of fraud complaints against its winning candidates, analysts said on! Friday.

The Supreme Court has also agreed to hear three cases that could lead to the pro-Thaksin People Power Party being disbanded, or some or all of the poll results being annulled. Of 83 candidates being investigated by the Election Commission, whose five members were appointed by the army after the September 2006 coup, 65 are from the PPP.

Although there is no indication how many will end up disqualified, or 'red-carded' as soccer-mad Thais like to call it, the high proportion of accepted complaints against the PPP and the EC's distinct lack of openness has raised eyebrows. 'The idea of 65 suspicious cases against the PPP seems odd,' said Kevin Hewison, a Thai politics researcher at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

To change the course of the election you need between 20 and 30 red cards and that seems highly likely at this stage. They may well overturn the result.

With so much at stake in the election, many analysts thought it inevitable that the army and royalist establishment accused of being behind the coup would pull out all the stops to ensure a pro-Thaksin administration did not emerge.

Watching the PPP scoop up 233 of the 480 seats and then announce a coalition with three small parties must have made uncomfortable viewing for the generals who expect to be in trouble if Thaksin or his proxies ever return to power.
Perhaps fearful of riling the EC, a PPP spokesman said he was not unduly concerned by the probes and hoped the party's candidates would be able to clear themselves.

However, firebrand party chief Samak Sundaravej has accused a 'dirty invisible hand' of meddling in the post-election process, a widely interpreted reference to chief royal adviser Prem Tinsulanonda, whom Thaksin supporters say organised* the coup.

If true, the behind-the-scenes machinations are indicative of Bangkok elite unable to accept the voice of an electorate mat remains predominantly rural and poorly educated despite two decades of rapid economic growth, analysts said.

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