September 14, 2008
Thailand Political Stalemate:
Ruling party to vote on prime minister candidate Monday
State of emergency in Bangkok to be lifted
Thailand’s ruling People's Power Party (PPP) on Monday will pick its candidate to replace disqualified Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej from three leading figures, including Acting Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, the brother-in-law of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
The other two candidates in the running are party secretary-general and Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee, and Justice Minister Sompong Amornwiwat.
Sompong told reporters Saturday that the party's lawmakers would vote on Monday to select the candidate before the parliament convenes on Wednesday to elect Samak's successor, the country's 26th prime minister and the fourth in three years.
He said all the five other coalition partners in the seven-month-old government had agreed to remain in the administration and would support any candidate put forward by PPP, which is the biggest party in the 480-seat Lower House of Representatives.
After being snubbed by his own party lawmakers in Parliament on Friday, the 73-year-old Samak ruled himself out of contention, paving the way for a new candidate that many see unlikely to reduce the boiling political temperature.
Samak was disqualified last Tuesday by the Constitution Court for violating the Constitution by hosting the "Tasting and Grumbling" and "All Set at 6am" cooking programmes while still in office.
About two-thirds of the members of parliament boycotted Friday's parliament session due to dissatisfaction over his renomination, forcing the election to be postponed to
Wednesday due to the lack of quorum.
Thailand has been in political turmoil since August 26 when thousands of anti-government protesters seized the Prime Minister's Office at the Government House.
They are still occupying the premises and had wanted Samak to resign as they claimed he is a proxy of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
But even without Samak at the helm, the confrontation is unlikely to end as frontrunner Somchai also has close ties with Thaksin, while Surapong was a government spokesman during Thaksin's final days in the administration.
Furthermore, the PPP is facing possible dissolution over allegations of election fraud, and party insiders have hinted that a new election is on the cards.Meanwhile, local media reported that the government would lift the state of emergency in Bangkok on Sunday after just 12 days in effect, after acting prime minister Somchai Wongsawat and Army chief Gen Anupong Paojinda, who met Saturday evening, agreed the decree was merely damaging the country, and the political situation was under control.
It was imposed early on September 2 by then-premier Samak Sundaravej, after a violent clash in which one pro-government protester was killed.