Thai opposition looks set to form new government
By VIJAY JOSHI,Associated Press Writer AP - 22 minutes ago
BANGKOK, Thailand - Thailand's main opposition party called for an emergency parliamentary session Monday to prove its majority as a key step to form the next government and end months of political paralysis.
The Democrat Party's formal appeal for the session indicated it was confident of forming a government following the court-ordered ouster last week of the ruling coalition, which had been packed with allies of the fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
He was booted out in a 2006 military coup amid allegations of corruption, and sentenced to two years imprisonment in October for violating a conflict of interest law. He now lives in exile in the United Arab Emirates.
A new administration would bring some semblance of stability to this Southeast Asian nation, which has been gripped by political uncertainty since August when protesters _ driven by a single-minded hatred for Thaksin and his allies _ seized the prime minister's office and last month overran the capital's two airports in a bid to topple the government.
The weeklong airport siege that ended last Wednesday left more than 300,000 foreign travelers stranded and dealt a crippling blow to the economy and the key tourism industry.
Democrat Party Secretary-General Suthep Thuagsuban filed a motion Monday for the extraordinary session with the speaker of the House of Representatives, the lower house of Parliament.
Oxford-educated party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva would likely become the next prime minister if the Democrat Party is successful in its bid to form a government.
"The Democrat Party is ready to govern. We will do our best to gear the country out of a crisis," Abhisit said. "We will boost the confidence of foreign investors and tourists."
House Speaker Chai Chidchob must seek approval of the constitutional monarch to convene the house, but the approval was considered a formality.
Thailand's political parties are seeking to fill a power vacuum created after the Constitutional Court on Tuesday dissolved the pro-Thaksin People's Power Party and two other parties in the ruling coalition for electoral fraud. The court also banned Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and 24 other lawmakers from politics for five years.
PPP members regrouped in the new Phuea Thai (For Thais) Party, but have seen some of their coalition partners defecting to the Democrat Party or its coalition.
The House of Representatives normally has 480 members, but because of vacancies currently has 438 members.
The Democrat Party claims the support of 260 lawmakers, including 166 of its members and the defectors.
Associated Press writer Ambika Ahuja contributed to this report.
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