Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva conceded defeat as counting indicated that Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party (PTP) had secured enough seats to govern outright after a solid performance in the traditional Thaksin party strongholds in the country’s northeast and north.
Flanked by her supporters and speaking to journalists, Yingluck thanked her party and the voters, and said she would wait for the formal results before claiming victory. She also said her priority was to deliver on her campaign promises.
‘Of course we have to help in the economy, that’s our first priority,’ she said.
The outright victory means that the PTP won’t have to rely on coalition support from smaller parties such as Chart Thai Pattan to cobble together a working majority of over 250 seats.
It has also opened the way for Yingluck to push ahead with an amnesty for her fugitive brother, which may also involve a broader amnesty for military figures involved in last year’s bloody crackdown in the capital on anti-government protesters that left 92 people dead.
Negotiating an amnesty will be a delicate process. However, some media reports have suggested that preliminary negotiations have already cleared the way for Thaksin’s return if he agrees not to become directly involved with the day-to-day running of government.
As part of the agreement, pro-establishment military supremo Prayuth Chan-Ocha would stay in his position until retirement, due in three years’ time, enabling him to remain as a bulwark against any attempt to undermine the status quo.
Thaksin said in several reports to local media the vote indicated that most people want reconciliation following five years of protests that have dominated Thailand’s political landscape, with Thaksin’s Red Shirts facing off against the pro-establishment Yellow Shirts, including the self-anointed defenders of the monarchy.
He said his younger sister would be the next prime minister, adding his advice for her was that life would be difficult. He also said that the three priorities confronting Yingluck were reconciliation, the economy and meritocracy within the civil service system.
There have been accusations that under the post-coup governments the courts, police investigators and government agencies have been politicized in order to pursue Thaksin and his allies.
Another key sticking point is the return of Thaksin’s personal fortune, which was seized after he was found guilty of corruption in 2008 and sentenced in absentia to two years imprisonment.
Abhisit now seems uncertain after he promised during the campaign that he would stand down as Democrat Party leader if his party fails to secure at least 200 seats in the 500 seat parliament.
Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij has been widely tipped to take over as leader of the Democrats.