One of the most interesting national elections in the world is taking place this weekend in the southeastern Asian nation of Thailand.
Yingluck Shinawatra, the 44-year-old youngest sister of the exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, of the Puea Thai Party, is challenging the Democrat incumbent Abhisit Vejjajiva in Sunday’s general polls.
Security will be very tight during the election after six years of violent political demonstrations in the country, leading to scores of deaths. About 170,000 police and security forces have been ordered to protect polling stations.
Essentially, the elite and middle-classes support the ruling Democrats while Yingluck has the endorsement of the rural Thais, the working classes and the poor.
Thaksin, who was deposed in a military coup in September 2006, now lives in exile in Dubai, after fleeing a conviction on charges of corruption. He remains a powerful (and controversial) force in Thailand – albeit in absentia.
Indeed, Abhisit has charged that Yingluck serves merely as a puppet for her brother and is running in the election to pave the way for Thaksin’s return to Thailand.
Yingluck, who would become the first female prime minister should she win the election, has denied she is under her brother’s control, but has vowed nonetheless to implement Thaksin’s populist political programs.
On Friday in Bangkok she told her supporters: Please give a chance to this woman to serve the country. Please give a chance to this woman to bring reconciliation back to this country.
Contrarily, at a separate demonstration, Abhisit warned that Thailand must get rid of the poison of Thaksin. As long as Thaksin thinks, Puea Thai has to do it -- to find ways to give Thaksin back his seized 46-billion baht ($1.5-billion).”
Opponents have also derided Yingluck for her lack of experience. Her background includes success as a businesswoman and academic. Her glamour and good looks are also assets. Moreover, unlike her opponent, she refrained from making negative remarks about Abhisit.
At a party meeting she declared: I am ready to fight according to the rules and I ask for the opportunity to prove myself. I ask for your trust as you used to trust my brother. I will utilise my femininity to work fully for our country.”
Yingluck is favored to win the election, according to polls. Should she emerge victorious, there are fears the courts and military will intervene and invalidate a Puea Thai government.