September 16, 2008 / 7:08 AM / in 11 years

Thai MPs haggle for posts ahead of PM vote

BANGKOK (Reuters) - Factions in Thailand’s ruling People Power Party (PPP) met separately on Tuesday to haggle for cabinet posts ahead of a parliamentary vote for a brother-in-law of ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra to be the new prime minister.

One rebel group backed off an earlier threat to break away from the PPP, a successor to Thaksin’s banned Thai Rak Thai party, saying it would support Somchai Wongsawat as prime minister if a majority of the party wanted it.

“We will respect the outcome of the party meeting this afternoon,” said Boonjong Wongtrairat, whose faction commands a third of the PPP’s 223 MPs.

His group walked out of a meeting on Monday at which the PPP board anointed Somchai, who has been acting prime minister since a court sacked Samak Sundaravej last week for hosting TV cooking shows while in office.

Some MPs fear Somchai’s links to Thaksin, who was removed in a 2006 coup, will only exacerbate tensions with street protesters arguing that the PPP-led coalition is merely a Thaksin puppet.

Somchai, married to one of Thaksin’s sisters, brushed aside calls for a snap election if the factions could not agree on a nomination.

“Everything will be sorted out today,” he told reporters before chairing a cabinet meeting.

ACCESSION IS FAR FROM ASSURED

Parliament is due to vote on his nomination on Wednesday, although, as with an abortive vote for Samak on Friday following approval by the party, his formal accession is far from assured.

The People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), which has occupied the prime minister’s official compound for the past three weeks in a bid to unseat the PPP, said it had no doubts that Thaksin would be pulling the strings from London, where he is in exile.

The Supreme Court issued a second arrest warrant for Thaksin on Tuesday after he failed to appear at the start of a trial investigating soft government loans to the military regime in neighboring Myanmar while he was in office.

The court suspended the case until Thaksin returned.

Another warrant was issued against him and his wife when they failed to return from Beijing last month for another graft trial.

Despite Thailand’s stuttering growth and soaring inflation, the stock market has underperformed a benchmark Asian index by only 3 percent since the PAD launched its anti-Samak street campaign in May.

The PAD, a motley group of businessmen, activists and academics whose 2006 campaign contributed to the coup against Thaksin, paint themselves as champions of cleaner government and defense of the monarchy.

They also advocate a return to appointed government, saying popular democracy is overly swayed by money.

Reporting by Pracha Hariraksapitak; Writing by Nopporn Wong-Anan; Editing by Ed Cropley

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