Thai election brings hope of stability

Thailand’s powerful military accepted on Monday a stunning election victory by the party of fugitive former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, adding to a new sense of stability in a country plagued by unrest since his ouster in a coup five years ago.

A day after the victory by the Puea Thai Party headed by Thaksin’s youngest sister, Yingluck Shinawatra, the military agreed not to intervene or stop her from forming a government, according to the outgoing defence minister.

“I can assure that the military has no desire to stray out of its assigned roles,” said General Prawit Wongsuwan, a former army chief close to military leaders involved in the 2006 coup that removed Thaksin

“The army accepts the election results,” he told Reuters.

Puea Thai’s outright majority of an estimated 264 seats in the 500-seat parliament makes it hard for Thaksin’s opponents to stop Yingluck becoming Thailand’s first woman prime minister, which might have ignited protests by her red-shirted supporters who clashed with the army in weeks of unrest last year.

Yingluck announced she would form a five-party coalition that would control about 60% of parliament, giving her a strong hand to fulfil her election promises.

“Chances of blocking Puea Thai in the near term are severely limited,” said Roberto Herrera-Lim, Southeast Asian analyst at political risk consultancy Eurasia Group. “The instability everyone has been worried about now looks less likely. The military will have to be pragmatic now.”

The 44-year-old businesswoman plans to roll out a long list of Thaksin-style populist programmes that could influence the direction of Southeast Asia’s second-largest economy – from subway extensions to big wage increases and various giveaways aimed at boosting spending power, especially in rural areas.

Thai stocks jumped more than 4% as the scale of her victory persuaded some investors that Thailand could be more stable after a six-year crisis marked by the occupation of Bangkok’s two airports, a blockade of parliament, an assassination attempt and bloody street protests.

Thailand’s baht currency rose 1 percent to a one-week high against the dollar on hopes foreign investors would return following $1.4 billion of outflows of global capital since election campaigns began in earnest at the start of May.