Thai PM claims poll victory despite opposition boycott

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The Independent Online

His political enemies characterised the snap election as an illegitimate one-horse race and renewed calls for his resignation.

Official tallies have not yet been released by the election commission, but there were early indications of a huge protest vote against Mr Thaksin, who has served as a caretaker premier since he dissolved parliament five weeks ago amid the calls for him to leave office over allegations of corruption. Mandatory voting was marked by widespread abstentions in three southern provinces where there is a Muslim-majority and in Bangkok, the capital.

The ruling Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party won 349 seats, down from 377 a year ago, Mr Thaksin announced on a political talk show. He had volunteered to stand down if he garnered less than half of the ballots cast by Thailand's 45 million registered voters.

On a television broadcast last night, Mr Thaksin proposed that a non-partisan committee for reconciliation meet to seek a solution to the country's political crisis. The former telecoms tycoon, who is often compared to the Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, promised he would quit if a group of eminent judges and academics recommended he do so.

Mr Thaksin said he was stunned when he heard a Democrat Party appeal for a royal intervention. But there was no indication that the King would evoke an emergency provision in the constitution to replace the prime minister. Abhisit Vejjajiva, head of the Democrat Party, said the numerous abstentions showed Mr Thaksin had inadequate support to lead the country.

The People's Alliance for Democracy, an anti-government coalition, vowed to restart street protests against Mr Thaksin.