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Backgrounder: Abhisit--Thailand's trouble-ridden PM

07-01-2011 16:47 BJT

BANGKOK, July 1 (Xinhua) -- Thailand's 27th Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva came into power in December 2008 without calling a fresh election.

Thai lawmakers voted 235-198 to support English-born, Oxford- educated Abhisit at the age 44 as the country's youngest prime minister in over 50 years in December 2008.

Abhisit was born on August 3, 1964, in Newcastle, England. He attended Eton College, which has produced 18 British prime ministers in the past four centuries. At Oxford University, he received a philosophy, politics and economics degree and a master' s degree in economics.

Abhisit's wife is a dentist-turned-mathematics lecturer at Chulalongkorn University. They have two children.

With good look, impressive education, brilliant mind and reputation for clean politics, Abhisit has mainly drawn supports from Bangkok's educated middle-classes and people living in southern Thailand -- the Democrats' power base. But his critics often accuse him of lacking a common touch with Thailand's rural poor and working class, who comprise a majority of voters.

A political lecturer at Chulalongkorn University, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, once said "He doesn't have broad appeal," and "He's a Bangkok patrician."

Abhisit joined Thailand's oldest party, the Democrats, in 1992 and at the age of 27, entered the parliament as one of its youngest ever members. He was also elected as an MP in the 1995, 1996, 2001, 2005 and 2007 polls consecutively. He eventually became the party leader in 2005.

His party failed to win in the latest election in December 2007 -- the first since the military coup in 2006 that overthrew then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Instead, Thaksin-sponsored People Power Party, which proposed populist polices, won the victory with 232 seats out of 480.

Months of protests by anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) followed in 2008, including a week-long seizure of Bangkok's two airports and the Government House. The Constitutional Court's decision to dissolve People Power Party led by Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin's brother-in-law for vote buying paved the way for Abhisit's party.

As the Democrats took office by parliamentary agreement rather than a new election, the legitimacy of his party and his leadership has been questioned, especially by the red-shirted opposition protesters.

Abhisit's government had to face two major demonstrations in 2009 and 2010 respectively when the red-clad United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) held street protests to bring down his government and demand for a snap election.

The deadly demonstrations in 2010 which involved clashes between arm forces and protesters in April and May left some 91 dead and almost 1,900 injured. The economy was hit badly and the country deeply divided.

Deciding to move the country forward, a year later, Abhisit called on a general election which will be arranged on July 3. As the party leader, he is tasked with a large burden of winning bigger seats so that his party could have a chance to set up a government even if it is a runner-up.

He was quoted by a foreign media as saying that he would quit the party's leader if his party wins less than 170 seats in the Lower House. However, he later denied the reports.

Editor:Wang Xiaomei |Source: Xinhua

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