Thai polls led by fugitive billionaire’s sister

BANGKOK- Fugitive billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra’s decision to name as a candidate for prime minister his sister Yingluck Shinawatra in the country’s upcoming elections may soon provide him with a chance to fly back home, reports The Wall Street Journal.

Recent opinion polls show that For Thais Party is likely to gain 43% of the vote in Thailand’s July 3 national elections opposed to the ruling Democrat Party’s 37%.

Ms. Yingluck, 43 years of age, is reported “to have electrified her party” since being named her party’s top candidate and draws “crowds of thousands of people wherever she goes.” At first, analysts doubted she could achieve her brother’s same achievements. But thanks to her glamorous surname and “the free-spending populist policies that propelled her brother to power” almost a decade ago, she may soon be Thailand’s first female prime minister.

Mr. Thaksin is hopscotching from one country to the other after being accused of terrorism “after the bloody collapse of antigovernment street protests” in Bangkok last year. Although he claims the charge is “a conspiracy to finish him off”, as well as the corruption charge he was convicted for in 2008, he cannot run in the ballot. Mr. Thaksin is living abroad after the 2006 military coup that “ousted him from power.”

Analysts have labelled Thaksin’s decision to name his sister as the party’s candidate “a masterstroke.” At rallies, Ms. Yingluck says she wants to pass a law that would enable her brother “to return home a freeman.”

Abhisit Vejjajiva, Thailand’s current leader, believes July’s vote is a turning point in the country’s history. But some Thais fear the vote “is being held too soon.” Last year’s military crackdown killed 91 people and many political analysts see unrest after the vote as a possibility. Rioting may be spurred by a refusal from both political sides to accept defeat.

A professor at Leeds University in England, Duncan McCargo, argues that Thailand wil go through many changes in the 12 months following the election. “A lot of factors other than the will of voters will come into play and in which traditional institutions may be influencing things behind the scenes” said Mr. McCargo.

Newin Chidchob, the leader of the Thai Pride Party, believes Ms. Yingluck won’t be appointed prime minister even if she wins. “Her family’s name is just too controversial” said Mr. Newin.