Thailand: Netizens React to Opposition Victory

Opposition candidate Yingluck Shinawatra is set to become Thailand’s first female Prime Minister as her Pheu Thai party won more than 260 seats in today’s general elections. Yingluck is the youngest sister of Thailand’s ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Incumbent Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has already conceded defeat on national television.

The elections were liveblogged by Newley Purnell, Siam Voices, Bangkok Pundit, and Khi Kwai. Thai netizens used the twitter #thaielection hashtag to monitor election reports and results. Richard Barrow posted election photos on posterous and Facebook.

Here are some reactions from Twitter:

@lollylollz: Not saying I agree with the results, just that it's still the ppl's decision – shouldn't we just accept it and move on?

@vahncitis: @gun_zlinger: You guys have deserved the karma that you guys, the majority, have done #ThaiElection < < Yes, we'll enjoy this good karma. .

@georgebkk: RT @notThanongK: Remember folks, it's not the winning that counts, but the taking it apart afterwards

@poobist: RT @pisa_fye: our new PM needs a new script writing team and a public speaking course ASAP!!

@sarendra: Time for #Thai politics to heal and move forward. Time for the King and the Army to stop meddling. #Thailand will sm:)le again

Yingluck Shinawatra

Yingluck Shinawatra

Thaksin was ousted by a coup in 2006. He is now in exile to avoid being detained on a corruption conviction. Newley Purnell is curious about the fate of Thaksin now that his party has won again in the polls:

There has been much discussion, in the past, about whether or not the army would accept another Thaksin friendly government.

Thai political pundits, in discussions on TV tonight, have referred to amnesty for Thaksin as a non-starter.

There’s no telling what could happen, they’ve said, if the exiled billionaire returns to Thailand.

But would Pheu Thai really push for amnesty?

We shall see what the weeks ahead hold in store.

Siam Voices reflects on the lessons of the recent election campaign and the challenges to be faced by the new government:

We’ll most likely get our first female prime minister; the opposition (both parliamentary and extra-parliamentary) have reasons to celebrate; the Democrat Party have gambled with their negative campaigning and ultimately lost while Yingluck has won not only because of her exiled brother, but also because of her soft approach; that being an straight-forward, angry underdog gets you somewhere and that Thai exit polls are crap and we should be careful not to be fooled by the flashy numbers…

What is important now is where the new government puts its priorities first and how it handles the many crisis the country is facing – how will they tackle the rising food prices? Will they try to form reconciliation, even at the cost of justice? How free will prime minister Yingluck be of influence from outside the democratic institutions and from abroad? Ultimately: Will the will of the people be heard?

Andrew Walker and Nicholas Farrelly, writing for the New Mandala, hopes that Thailand will rebuild its confidence in the electoral and democratic processes:

Tonight’s result is a remarkable return to power for a political force that was forced out at the barrel of a gun on the night of 19 September 2006. In the years since then it has been constantly disrupted by royalist, military and judicial interventions. With more than 100 of its leading figures banned from politics Phaua Thai has succeeded in solidly defeating the very best the venerable Democrat Party can pitch against it.

Thailand now has an opportunity to start re-building faith in the electoral process. It would be a national tragedy if this opportunity was squandered.

Voter shows her election ballot. Photo from Posterous page of Richard Barrow

Oneditorial was able to vote from another country:

To me, it does not matter if the party for which I voted wins the election or not. I just wanted to express my democratic right for once. If the party I don’t like wins the election, I will sincerely congratulate them. Everyone should accept the outcome whether they approve or not; otherwise the country will go back to the same chaotic cycle of Yellow and Red. Nobody likes corrupt politicians. But to address this problem, everyone should agree that it should be done within the democratic process.

The Yellow and Red groups he mentioned refer to the anti-Thaksin Yellow protesters who organized the 2008 airport takeover; while the Red Shirts are anti-Abhisit protesters who organized Bangkok street barricades last year.

Robert Amsterdam, a supporter of Red Shirts, identifies the difficulties encountered by the opposition:

The election result is all the more stunning when we consider the odds Pheu Thai was up against. Even with the full backing of the state, the assistance of the army, the disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of voters, the control of the media, the jailing of our candidates, and the disqualification of dozens of our leading politicians, the Democrats were no match for a party, and a movement, that have inspired and empowered millions of Thai citizens.

Elections were generally peaceful although some problems were also encountered like missing names of voters, spoiled and disqualified ballots, long lines in voting centers, and allegations of illegal campaigning.


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