The sister of exiled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra swept to victory in fractious Thailand’s elections Sunday, heralding an extraordinary political turnaround five tumultuous years after her fugitive billionaire brother was toppled in an army coup.
The vote paves the way for 44-year-old Yingluck Shinawatra, who has never held office, to become this Southeast Asian kingdom’s first female prime minister. A large mandate to govern could help the new government navigate a way out of out of the crisis that has plagued Thailand since Thaksin’s 2006 overthrow. But the question remains whether the nation’s elite power brokers, including the monarchy and the army, would accept the result.
Thaksin was barred from politics years ago after a graft conviction, and the U.S.-educated Yingluck, who he calls “my clone,” is widely considered her proxy.
The incumbent premier, Abhisit Vejjajiva, conceded defeat Sunday night and said he was ready to become the opposition.
With 94 percent of the vote counted, preliminary results from the Election Commission indicated Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party had a strong lead with 261 of 500 parliament seats, well over the majority needed to form a government. Abhisit’s Democrats had 162 seats.
Speaking to a throng of cheering supporters at her party headquarters in Bangkok, Yingluck declined to declare victory until final results are released. But she said: “I don’t want to say that Pheu Thai wins today. It’s a victory of the people.”
In an interview broadcast on the Thai PBS television station, Thaksin called the preliminary outcome “a step forward.”
“People are tired of a standstill,” he said from the desert emirate of Dubai, where he lives in exile to avoid a two-year prison sentence for graft he says is politically motivated. “They want to see change in a peaceful manner.”
Thaksin said he did not feel vengeful and was “ready to forgive all.”
BP: Thaksin couldn’t stay quiet for his sister even on this day of all days. No doubt he felt he need to speak and was interviewed live on Thai TV for the first time in a long time – since 2006?.
Reuters has an article focusing on Yingluck:
Siriphan Noksuan, associate professor at Chulalongkorn University’s Faculty of Political Science, said it was far too early to say what kind of leader she would be.
“People know she’s a political novice,” Siriphan said.
“But they also trust that she will have an army of pundits and economic advisers behind the scene to help her.”
For now, she can bask in her victory after a campaign that left defeated Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, a career politician, struggling from day one.
Abhisit doesn’t have the common touch. Yingluck, a wealthy businesswoman, and Thaksin, a billionaire former telecoms tycoon, do.
“In some way, I feel like I can connect with her and her brother even though we’re poor and have nothing,” said Malai Jiemdee, a maid from Nakhon Ratchasima province
BP: From Voice TV + Channel 7: Latest Vote Count (11:o0p.m.). 95.25% counted:
NOTE: Rak Santi also got on 1 party list seat. Two party votes am unsure about.
Puea Thai are slowly increasing their lead and it is now more than 100. Puea Thai are leading by 262 to the Democrats 160. They have a clear majority, but it will be a coalition government. Yingluck when speaking to the press said the party was talking with Chart Thai Pattana. Thaksin was just interviewed by Kitti of Channel 3’s Sahm Mitti news program said he had “heard” that it would be Puea Thai 262 + Chart Thai Pattana 19 + Chart Pattana Puea Paendin 9 + Palangchon 7 which equals a government of around 297 MPs which is close to the ideal government of 300 MPs. Channel 3’s Sahm Mitti reporter says have heard the same and in their interview with Yingluck she specifically excluded Bhum Jai Thai saying they had “different policies” with Puea Thai.
You will see that the big parties got just over 420 between them versus just under 80 for the smaller parties. BP has always thought the smaller parties would do worse than expected. As blogged on May 26:
Nevertheless, BP thinks the vote for the smaller parties is *currently* shrinking and that the smaller parties could end up with less 100 MPs between them and possibly down to 70-80 MPs.
Then, as blogged on June 24:
As you will see The Nation, as the article also states, says that the big two parties will win 380 seats and the small parties will win 120 seats. BP thinks this division is incorrect and the smaller parties won’t win more than 100 seats. More likely around 90 although if they win more than this it will be at the expense of the Democrats. BP thinks that Bhum Jai Thai won’t win more than 40.
(UPDATE: Also, blogged on June 21:
CTP are lucky that they have a solid support base in and around Suphan Buri so they have a core support, but based on what Chumpol is saying 23-25 seats seems more likely for Chat Thai Pattana now. With Bhum Jai Thai also not doing so well in the polls, the minor parties may win only 80 seats….)
1. Despite the exit polls suggesting it was a landslide with close to 300 or more than 300, in the end it wasn’t. So from this perspective, Puea Thai’s result seems disappointing. BUT most analysis prior to the poll had Puea Thai getting less than 260 so the result can’t be called a disappointment. BP last predicted on June 24:
BP doesn’t see that Thursday’s rally will help the Democrats and while on June 9, BP thought the Democrats would win 182 seats and Puea Thai 228 would now adjust this to the Democrats winning 170-175, but adjust Puea Thai upwards to 235-240. The Democrats need a miracle now and if things continue as they are with Puea Thai picking up steam, Puea Thai could come close to winning an absolute majority.
BP: In the end, Puea Thai picked up more steam than BP thought. Late last week, BP thought that Puea Thai would just win just under a majority. In the end, they were able to pick up off enough seats from the Democrats in the Central Region and keep Bhum Jai Thai at bay in the Northeast.
Also, to win a clear majority in Thailand is a very impressive feat. It is only the second time BP is aware that it has happened in Thai history – last time in 2005 and TRT in 2001 and PPP came close but just missed out.
2. In 2007, the pro-Thaksin PPP won 233 seats, but this time PT have increased this to 262 and that was without Newin’s BJT. For the Democrats, they have gone from 165 to 160. This is despite an increase in the number of seats from 480 to 500. You have to say this is a disappointing result for the Democrats and it may pose the end of Abhisit as party leader of the Democrats – he hinted at this at the end of concession speech.
3. One of the key differences compared with 2007 is for the party vote.
Party Vote 2007
Party Vote 2011 (not yet official and not 100%)
Source: Channel 7 although note the percentages are only approximate as didn’t have time to obtain data for all parties, but extrapolated the results for the smaller 32 smaller parties based on their previous numbers after around 67% of vote counted – EC website hasn’t been updating as of 7:20 p.m! This does include no votes, spoilt ballots.
BP: So despite changing the electoral system – see here and here – because the Democrats had done better on the party vote, the end result is that it hasn’t worked because the seats that Puea Thai lost because of the reduction in the number of constituency seats from 400 to 375 have been made up from the increase in the party-list seats from 80 to 125 and the Democrats have not done so well on the party vote compared to 2007. They have lost around 2 million voters – although still not 100%.
4. Now, looking at the constituency constituency seats:
For the 2007 general election, these were the results:
For 2011 (these are NOT final):
4a. In the South, the Democrats have improved at the expense of the smaller parties. This was slightly better than expected although we are talking about 2-3 seats better than expected.
4b. In the Northeast, Puea Thai have done remarkably well. Despite the reduction in the number of constituencies, they have held their ground and won over 100 seats. The Democrats haven’t improved. Bhum Jai Thai are only a half-hearted threat winning only 13 seats and Puea Thai were able to keep Chart Pattana Puea Paendin to 7. Keeping Bhum Jai Thai out of government will further weaken Bhum Jai Thai for future elections…
4c. It is the Central Region, that is the big reason why the Democrats did so badly and Puea Thai so well. A 2 seat gap in 2007 has become a 16 seat gap now. Palangchon took 6 out of the 8 seats in Chonburi – Dems and PT shared the other 2 seats. Whereas back in 2007, the Democrats won all 8 seats.
Puea Thai even picked up one seat from Banharn’s stronghold of Suphan Buri (constituency No. 5).
4d. Again, the Democrats and Chart Thai Pattana dropped seats in the North and Puea Thai picked up seats. Puea Thai swept Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Lamphun, Nan, Phrae, Phayao, and Uttradit. Then, in the lower North, Puea Thai did ok picking up seats and almost wiping out Chart Thai Pattana.
4e. In Bangkok, compared with exit polls or previous polls, the Democrats will be happy with 23-10 although they did worse than in 2007. Looking at the party vote though, Puea Thai are only 50,000 votes behind the Democrats (1,143,533 to 1,090,392) for all of Bangkok and a number of constituencies, the results are quite close.
5. The Democrat’s campaign of going negative has helped them keep Bangkok, but BP think it has hurt them elsewhere. In the end, it it wasn’t all about Bangkok (in the sense that the result didn’t rest on Bangkok), but on the other hand given the Democrats had to focus so much on Bangkok it was all about Bangkok because their campaigning in Bangkok and the negative nature of their campaign + message to keep Bangkok helped Puea Thai (together with Puea Thai’s reconciliatory tone and Yingluck not responding to Abhisit) win a majority.
6. The vote is clearly a rejection of the establishment and a vote for the Puea Thai (Thaksin?) way of governing. The question though becomes, will Yingluck and the government live up to expectations?
7. A clear majority for Puea Thai will help the markets. If they had won just a plurality or the Democrats tried to contest the result then this would have created instability. In the end, the result together with Abhisit’s quick and clear concession has avoided this although one wonders how long the Abhisit-Yingluck love-fest we saw with them thanking each other will last.
8. Will Abhisit resign as party leader? Highly likely. Korn as his replacement?
NOTE: Made a number of grammatical changes and changed a few sentences within the first 10 minutes of posting. This post was meant to go up at 6 am, but mistakenly scheduled it for wrong day (July 3) so had to quickly edit it….