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Thailand: Prime Minister dissolves the parliament, setting the stage for early elections

May 18, 2011

On 9 May, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva received the king's approval to dissolve the House of Representatives in order to hold national elections on 3 July. The political contest will represent Thailand's first election since 2007. In 2007, the Parliament elected Abhisit Vejjajiva with military backing as Prime Minister after former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a coup. Thaksin Shinawatra was later sentenced to jail for corruption and abuse of power. Since then, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has struggled to assert his legitimacy to lead a divided country, in particular in the poor north-eastern and northern regions of the country, where a powerful anti-government movement commanded from exile by Shinawatra remains strong. Supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, who had aligned with the ?red-shirt? anti-government movement, demonstrated in the streets of Bangkok in April and May last year in violent protests that were crushed by the military, resulting in a death-toll of some 90 people. Despite the strong opposition movements from pro-Thaksin Pua Thai Party, local analysts expect the ruling Democrat Party to gain sufficient support, resulting in a tight election. However, if neither party wins a majority in the 500-seat lower house, they will need to form a coalition government with smaller parties, which make the future course of politics even less predictable. While the election will take Thailand's divisions from the streets into the political arena, analysts suggest that it could trigger further protests by supporters of the losing side, intensifying the level of confrontation and polarisation in the months to come.

Author:, Senior Economist

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