Interim Thai PM hopeful he can lead country to new election

Tuesday, 13 May 2014 00:01 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

REUTERS: Thailand’s interim Prime Minister expressed hope on Monday that February’s annulled general election could be re-run soon, and said anti-government protesters would not succeed in getting the Senate to impose an alternative premier. Ousted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s caretaker government has remained in office since the Constitutional Court ordered her and nine ministers to step down last week in a nepotism case. That followed six months of political turmoil in Bangkok, the latest phase of a nearly decade-long struggle between former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother who was overthrown by the army in 2006, and the royalist establishment. Before being forced out, Yingluck had agreed with the Election Commission to hold an election on 20 July, although the date has not been ratified by the king.Caretaker Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan told foreign media the Government would meet the commission on Wednesday to decide the best date. “Hopefully, we will have an election soon but it may slip, depending on the meeting,” he said. “I can’t guarantee the election will be successful, but I have high hopes.” Protesters intent on removing Yingluck, who they viewed as a proxy for her self-exiled brother, disrupted the vote in February and the Constitutional Court later annulled it. Now Yingluck is gone, the protesters want a “neutral” Prime Minister to oversee electoral reforms aimed at keeping the Shinawatras out of power, and have said they will scupper any vote that takes place before those changes are brought in. But Niwatthamrong, who served as Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister under Yingluck and was previously a senior executive in one of Thaksin’s companies, said the election should take place first. “We cannot stop the election; that is against the law,” he said. “We can have elections first and then reforms.” Former telecommunications tycoon Thaksin won huge support in the north and northeast with populist policies that favoured the rural poor, but was increasingly seen as a challenge to the Bangkok-based royalist establishment.