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Thailand legislative election, 2005
Legislative elections were held in Thailand on 6 February, 2005. With a turnout of 76 percent, the Thais Love Thais Party (Phak Thai Rak Thai) of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra won a landslide victory. With 88 percent of the vote counted and complete or partial results available from all 500 seats in the House of Representatives, Thaksin's party appeared to have won 376 seats, and its ally the Thai Nation Party (Phak Chart Thai) 26 seats. The opposition Democratic Party of Thailand (Phak Prachatipat) won only 96 seats and the Great People Party , two.
Thaksin's party dominated most of Thailand's regions. In Bangkok it won 32 seats to the Democrats' four and Thai Nation's one. In the Central region it won 79 seats, to 10 for Thai Nation and eight for the Democrats. In the North, it won 71 seats to the Democrats' five. In the North-East (Isan) region, it won a massive 126 seats, to the Thai Nation's six, with two each going to the Democrats' the Great People Party . Only in the South was the landslide resisted. Democrats won 52 seats, while Thai Nation and Thais Love Thais won only one seat each. Of the 100 seats elected by proportional representation, Thais Love Thais appeared to be winning 67, to the Democrats' 25 and Thai Nation's eight. Some four million votes remaining to be counted; some political analysts earlier predicted that Thai Nation's share of the vote might drop below the five percent threshold for winning proportional seats, but this now seems unlikely.
PRELIMINARY NATIONAL SUMMARY OF VOTES AND SEATS ==================================================================== Party Votes % Seats -------------------------------------------------------------------- Democratic Party (PP) 7,210,742 24.4 (-02.2) 96 -32 Thai Nation Party (PCT) 2,061,559 07.0 (+01.7) 27 -9 Thais Love Thais (TRT) 18,993,073 64.2 (+23.6) 376 +128 Great People Party (PM) incl. with "others," below 2 +2 Others 1,293,704 04.4 (-23.1) - -83 -------------------------------------------------------------------- Total 29,559,078 500 --------------------------------------------------------------------
- Sources: Bangkok Post, The Nation. For the time being, the statistics for the Great People Party have been combined with "others," owing to the lack of published statistical information. This situation will be rectified as soon as possible.
Thaksin said he would now form a one-party administration, ending his uneasy coalition with Thai Nation. The Bangkok newspaper The Nation said that Thaksin "has apparently won the strongest popular re-endorsement in Thai political history and is set to be the most powerful prime minister ever elected to lead the Kingdom." Thaksin is the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Thailand to complete a full four-year term in office and the first to win an absolute majority in the House.
The day after the election, Thaksin said he would "work harder and faster to implement policies and resolve the country's problems." He said the government would "quickly boost Thailand's competitiveness in the international market, and would also look into improving religious affairs issues." This was taken as a reference to the situation in the south of the country, which has a large Muslim population, where there has been a history of unrest and disturbances, and where Thaksin's party won only one seat. The Nation newspaper reported: "Many voters [in the south] said they had lost faith in Thaksin, who has refused to apologise for incidents such as the deaths of 78 Muslims in October who were held in military custody after being arrested for protesting in the village of Tak Bai."
The House of Representatives (Sapha Poothaen Rassadorn) consists of 400 members elected from single-member constituences and 100 members elected from national party lists on a proportional basis. At the January 2001 elections, Thais Love Thais won 248 of the 500 seats, and gained a majority by forming an alliance with the Thai Nation Party of Banharn Silpa-Archa , which won 41 seats. Since then Thaksin's party has absorbed three minor parties, giving him about 300 seats in the legislature. The Democratic Party of Thailand won 128 seats in 2001.
At this election Thaksin's party was seeking to win an absolute majority in its own right, something no political party had ever achieved in Thailand at a genuinely free election (elections before 1992 were frequently rigged). A coalition of other parties and civil society groups was formed to prevent this, arguing that Thaksin already has too much power and that giving him an absolute parliamentary majority would encourge what they alleged were his authoritarian tendencies. Prominent academic Kasem Sirisamphan , for example, accused Thaksin of running a "parliamentary dictatorship" and said that "people do not want a billionaire prime minister to further dominate the country and its politics."
Thaksin's party replied that it had provided Thailand with stable, competent and corruption-free government, although critics said that corruption has actually increased under Thaksin's watch. Party spokesperson Suranand Vejjajiva said that Thais Love Thais was "the first party which could translate its populist policies into action. Its achievements and Mr Thaksin's vision give the party a clear edge and it will win an absolute majority," he said.
Between the 2001 and 2005 elections the Thai party situation was simplified by the disappearance of minor parties. Nearly all seats were expected to go to Thais Love Thais, Thai Nation and the Democratic Party. The only other significant party was the Great People Party (Phak Mahachon), a breakaway group from the Democratic Party.
The Democratic Party, led by Banyat Bantadtan , did not seriously expect to defeat the coalition of the other two parties, but hoped to win 200 seats, which would have been a gain of 70 seats. Thai Nation hoped mainly to avoid being eclipsed by its dominant coalition partner. In the event, both parties fell well short of these targets. The results cast doubt over the future of both party leaders, and Banyat resigned as Democratic Party leader immediately after the election. Abhisit Vejjajiva , his most likely successor, said: "It will take a long time to revive the party because we need to look four years ahead and consider how to stay in the hearts of the people."
Thai politics tend to be regionally based. Thaksin is strongest in the north-east region (Isan), the poorest and most populated part of the country, where his populist policies are most popular. He is also dominant in the north, since he was born in Chiang Mai and has directed much government spending to his home region. Additionally, Thaksin's pro-business policies have won him a substantial following among the urban middle-class in Bangkok, the wealthiest part of the country. Thais Love Thais is strong in the Chao Phraya valley as well, although the region has historically been a stronghold of Thai Nation, which still dominates in some of the central provinces. The Democrats are strongest in the south, but also have strength among liberal-minded voters in the capital.
During 2004 most observers suggested that Thaksin's popularity had declined since its peak in 2002, and that he was unlikely to achieve an absolute majority for his own party. The deaths of Muslim protesters in southern Thailand and the bird flu outbreak were seen as issues which the Thaksin government had handled badly.
These calculations were upset by the disaster of the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, which devastated six southern coastal provinces. The tsunami and its aftermath drove the election campaign to a large extent out of the media, and also produced a strong sense of national solidarity, from both of which an incumbent government could be expected to benefit. Most commentators praised the Thaksin government's response to the disaster. Political commentator Veera Prateepchaikul , who identified himself as an opponent of Thaksin, wrote in the Bangkok Post on 10 January: "Mr Thaksin deserves credit for his quick response to the disaster, his decisive leadership and his skills in crisis management."
Veera also pointed out that the provinces directly affected by the tsunami were part of the Democratic Party's southern stronghold, and that Thaksin's high profile, particularly on television, in delivering aid to the area might improve his party's chances of winning more seats in the south. "The Democrats might cry foul that Mr Thaksin is using the state media for campaign purposes," Veera wrote, "but the people may think otherwise." Only a miracle, he wrote, could turn the "tsunami tide which is now clearly in favour of Mr Thaksin." In the event the Democrats retained their dominance in southern Thailand, winning 49 of the 52 southern seats for which figures are available.
Given such increased expectations, a failure by Thais Love Thais to win 250 seats would have been seen as a considerable setback for Thaksin. The Bangkok newspaper The Nation published predictions by its reporters on 8 January, predicting that of the 400 constituency seats, Thais Love Thais would win 233, the Democrats 94, Thai Nation 47 and Great People 26. If the parties achieved similar results in the 100 proportionate seats, this would have given Thais Love Thais about 290 seats overall and the Democrats about 120 seats. This proved to be a considerable under-estimate of the scale of Thaksin's victory.
- The Nation's guide to the general election
- Realtime vote-counting report
- News about Thailand's 2005 General Election
- Why Thaksin succeeds
- "Rivals battle to end Thaksin era," Bangkok Post, 6 January 2005
- Veera Prateepchaikul, "Thaksin is swept along by the tsunami," Bangkok Post, 10 January 2005
|Politics of Thailand|
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