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Thai Senate poll set to fan anti-Thaksin campaign

Written by: Staff
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BANGKOK, Apr 18 (Reuters) Thais vote tomorrow for the upper house Senate in a poll which could help resolve the constitutional chaos left by a general election earlier this month boycotted by foes of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

But it could also intensify a campaign against Thaksin, accused of corruption, cronyism and abuse of power, with opponents saying the supposedly neutral Senate will be dominated by his Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party.

The candidates for the Senate, meant to act as a check on the government and select members of independent watchdog bodies, are not allowed to have a party affiliation or to campaign.

But many of those vying for the 200 seats are relatives of those in the government and leaders of the campaign against Thaksin say the election will produce only a more partisan body, which would bring his foes back on to the streets.

''The Thai Rak Thai people will be more dominant in the next Senate,'' outgoing senator Somkiat Onwimon said.

''I foresee a worse political crisis in which the Thai Rak Thai-dominated Senate will appoint their people to sit on independent watchdog agencies like the anti-graft body and the election commission,'' he said.

However, unlike the general election, the Senate poll will produce a full house which can be convened. It could then ask the Constitutional Court to rule on whether the lower house can convene without its full complement of members.

The opposition boycott of the April 2 snap general election left the lower house with empty seats and unable to convene within the 30 days specified by the constitution, which is understood to mean only a full house can meet.

Until it does meet, a new prime minister cannot be elected and a new government formed.

MORE REUTERS OM RAI1637

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