Thailand's sacked premier-cum-cook throws in the towel

Other News Materials 13 September 2008 08:15 (UTC +04:00)

Thailand's sacked prime minister Samak Sundaravej confirmed that he will no longer try to regain the post he lost this week for hosting television cooking shows, news reports said Saturday, reported dpa.

Theerapol Nopparampa, a close aide to Samak, has confirmed that Samak will no longer seek a renomination as prime minister and may also shed his post as leader of the People Power Party (PPP) - the countruy's largest political party, the Bangkok Post newspaper said.

Thailand's Constitution Court on Tuesday found Samak guilty of moonlighting as a TV cooking show host during his premiership, a violation of the charter, and removed him from the post.

The court ruling did not deprive Samak of his member of Parliament status though.

In open defiance of the court, the PPP decided to renominate Samak as prime minister, a move that many observers felt would deepen Thailand's already chaotic political scene.

Even members within the PPP did not back Samak's renomination as was demonstrated Friday when a special session of Parliament convened to vote for a new prime minister had to be postponed after failing to meet a quorum.

The PPP holds 223 of the 480 seats in Parliament, and only 161 MPs showed up Friday, nearly half of whom belonged to the opposition Democrat Party.

The vote has been postponed until Wednesday.

With Samak now out of the race, the PPP was scheduled to meet over the weekend to decide on an alternative candidate.

As the party is deeply divided there is speculation that it will need to dissolve Parliament if it fails to decide on an appropriate candidate for the premiership.

The three leading contenders include PPP deputy leader Somchai Wongsawat, Finance Minister Surapong Suebwonglee and Justice Minister Sompong Amornwiwat.

All three have close ties to deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra whose political legacy is at the heart of Thailand's ongoing crisis that peaked on August 26 when thousands of followers of the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) seized Government House, demanding Samak's resignation.

The PAD, a loose coalition of groups adamantly opposed to a return of Thaksin's populist politics, wanted Samak's resignation because he was seen as a "proxy" for Thaksin, who was toppled by a military coup on September 19, 2006.

The PPP won the December 23, 2007, general election on a pro-Thaksin platform, and the party is filled with Thaksin allies including the leading prime minister candidates Somchai, Surapong and Sompong.

The PAD has vowed to stay put at Governemnt Hosue, the seat of the administration, until the PPP is out of power.

The standoff pitted Thailand's weak system of election-based democracy against the well-established political elite comprising the bureaucracy, the military, old wealth and the pro-monarchists, political analysts said.