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Thai caretaker prime minister claims poll victory

Written by: Staff
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Bangkok, Apr 3 (UNI) With official results of Thailand's April 2 snap election still to be declared, caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra tonight asserted his party had won more than half the votes but said he would quit if recommended by a national reconciliation panel.

In a keenly awaited post-election statement, made during an interview on the government-run news channel, Mr Thaksin said his party had bagged more votes than the minimum target he had set for himself to continue as Prime Minister.

However, he said he would appoint a panel of experts comprising eminent people and experts to suggest ways of resolving the three-month-old political deadlock gripping the country.

Mr Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party contested the elections unchallenged with the three main former parliamentary opposition parties boycotting the polls.

The opposition parties and an anti-government people's campaign have organised massive street protests against Mr Thaksin over the past two months and have urged supporters to mark the ''no vote'' box in the ballot paper to express disapproval for the caretaker prime minister.

Preliminary election results showed that in the capital city, there were more ''no votes'' than votes in favour of Thai Rak Thai.

Mr Thaksin's party was the sole contender in over 270 parliamentry constituencies making it difficult for Thai Rak Thai candidates to comply with the election law requirement of winning at least a fifth of the votes in a single-candidate constituency.

Constitutional experts and political analysts are expecting the subsequent rounds of polling to make up the necessary numbers in parliament. More than 50 seats are in south Thailand, the traditional stronghold of the main opposition Democrat Party.

Mr Thaksin, who enjoys widespread rural support, has been accused by opposition parties of abusing his record popular electoral mandate from earlier elections to subvert constitutional checks and balances.

The opposition parties have been backed in recent months by the increasingly popular anti-government protests led by the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a platform of pro-democracy civil society groups, NGOs and rights activists.

The snap election was announced by the caretaker Prime Minister in late February following the political storm triggered by the late January tax-free sale of his family telecom business to a foreign company.

Opposition parties and the PAD are demanding constitutional reform under a neutral administration installed by Thailand's revered king.

They have rejected Mr Thaksin's offer to initiate reforms in Thailand's 1997 Constitution to curb the strong executive powers as manifested during Mr Thaksin's five years in office.

Mr Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai is the country's first political party to form an elected single party majority government. It won more than two-third seats in last year's parliament elections when it returned to office for a record second term.

UNI XC PM PC2209

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