Uncertainty over Thai govt formation after unclear poll verdict

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Bangkok, Dec 24 (UNI) Uncertainty surrounded the formation of a new post-coup government in Thailand today after the national election left the leading political party short of a majority in Parliament and potential ruling coalition partners still undecided.

The People Power Party (PPP), a reincarnation of the former Thai Rak Thai party of coup-ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawtra, claimed this afternoon that it had received enough support to form a government.

While results are still to be officially announced, the Election Commission said today the PPP was the clear winner with 232 of the 480 seats in the lower house of Parliament. Its main rival, the Democrat Party had 165 seats.

According to the Election Commission, about 32 million voters exercised their franchise, marking a more than 70 per cent voter turnout yesterday.

''We will wait for the Election Commission to ratify the result and then move forward with forming the government,'' PPP Secretary General Surapong Suebwongless said.

All eyes are now on a group of medium and small parties that hold the key to government formation. Prominent among these is the Chart Thai of former Prime Minister Banharn Silpa-arch with nearly 40 seats.

However, Mr Banharn, who has played a kingmaker role over the past decade in Thai politics, remained non-committal.

PPP leader Samak Sundaravej, self-admittedly acting on behalf of Mr Thaksin, who is judicially banned from political activity for five years along with 110 senior members of his former party, has invited all political parties to join a national government.

Mr Thaksin, in media interviews from Hong Kong yesterday, said he favoured a national reconciliation government of all parties.

However, the Democrat Party rejected the invitation. Its leader Abhisjit Vejjajiva said he would attempt to form a government only if the PPP failed to cobble together a ruling coalition.

Like the PPP, the Democrat Party has been trying to woo the Chart Thai before and after the election. Mr Abhisjit told reporters that he was awaiting the outcome of Chart Thai's talks with other smaller parties that have won seats in Parliament.

If these parties decide to stay away from the PPP, the Democrat Party would try its hand at government formation, he said.

UNI

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