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Thailand’s ruling party braces for key election in 2011

Although Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has played down speculation about a possible dissolution of the House in the short term, the recent announcement of an important populist schemes might indicate otherwise.

Boris Sullivan

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Bangkok bus

Although Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban has played down speculation about a possible dissolution of the House in the short term, the recent announcement of an important populist schemes might indicate otherwise. It is very probable the prime minister will call a snap election as soon as he receives a sign that the schemes are working to attract support for the government coalition parties.

The recent introduction of populist policies by the Democrat-led government could be interpreted as a sign that  general election is planned before the constitutional deadline of December 2011 .

Bangkok bus

Free buses and recent salary hikes are part of government measures taken in preparation for the yet to be announced elections

The government has launched a series of policies over the past month and among them is the Pracha Wiwat welfare scheme which is being marketed as a New Year’s gift for Thais. It is aimed at putting more than 30 billion baht into the pockets of poorer people.

Pracha Wiwat follows an unprecedented steep increase in the minimum wage, substantial pay rises for civil servants, and the distribution of rice in bags bearing Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva’s name to communities nationwide.

Taking all these factors into account, it is probable the prime minister will dissolve the lower house in the first half of next year – more than six months before the government’s term ends.

Thailand has recorded 10 dissolutions of the House in the 78 years since the introduction of constitutional monarchy in 1932, but  they were motivated by conflicts between the administrative and the legislative branches or among the coalition parties, or because it could provide a way out of a political crisis.

Thai Prime Minister is defending his government’s Pracha Wiwat policy, insisting that it is not focused on cash handouts.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said during his weekly TV show that his government will continue to make sure that domestic diesel prices will not surge too dramatically and that the country’s transportation sector and goods prices are not affected.

Abhisit went on to explain that the Cabinet has decided to give civil servants and lawmakers a salary increase because the raise is long overdue. Meanwhile, the prime minister is adamant that the increases, including the recently approved minimum wage hike, will not affect the prices of products.

In addition, the premier said that he is satisfied with Thailand’s economic performance in 2010, which has had a higher than expected growth.

He also said that the government will make an announcement about its new economic policies on January 1 and 2, before a detailed statement regarding the Pracha Wiwait policy is broadcast on January 9.

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