There is political turmoil in Thailand after a widely boycotted election dealt a heavy blow to Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. He had called the snap poll as a referendum on his leadership. A constitutional crisis was already on the cards because the opposition’s boycott inevitably meant empty seats in parliament. It must be full for a government to be formed.
But many people, particularly in Bangkok, officially abstained by ticking the ‘no vote’ box on their ballot papers. Counting will not be completed until later today, and Thaksin believes he will pick up votes in rural areas where he remains popular. He has vowed to stand down if his Thai Rak Thai party gets less than 50 per cent of the vote. Thaksin’s popularity has fallen over corruption scandals and Muslim separatist unrest in the south of the country. Analysts speculate that if he is badly undermined by the ‘no vote’ trend, he may hand over to a deputy to diffuse political tension, and try for a comeback later.