ELECTION 2005: Final Countdown

News

TRT ups tempo on possibility of one-party rule as PM deems Chat Thai ‘unreliable’

Give all your votes to me – that’s what Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra yesterday urged voters to do during Thai Rak Thai’s last campaign rally before the general election tomorrow.

“Where in the world is a single-party government called a dictatorship? What’s wrong with it when people have faith in me?” Thaksin rhetorically asked the thousands of people gathered at the Thai Rak Thai rally in the evening.

He was referring to widely held concerns that a one-party government by Thai Rak Thai might imperil Thailand’s democracy by undercutting legislative checks and balances.

Flanked by his wife and children as well as party bigwigs and Bangkok candidates, Thaksin exhorted the more than 70,000 people massed in Sanam Luang to vote for Thai Rak Thai both in the constituency and party-list systems if they wanted to see an end to poverty in Thailand.

Standing his ground, he insisted that what Thailand had always lacked was the kind of decisive political force that the Thai Rak Thai offered and that was why Democrat candidates were lambasting the party.

“Politics has to be based on firm foundations, which can be provided only by people’s support,” he stressed.

Thaksin urged members of other political parties to abandon politics as a profession and leave it to the Thai Rak Thai to bring happiness to people in Thailand. In the next breath, he urged his listeners to jettison the Democrats in order to teach its members an electoral lesson. “The country doesn’t need the service of the Democrats right now, let them be introspective first,” he said.

“Democracy does not mean Democrat,” Thaksin added, explaining that he himself was a paragon of a true democrat and would soon prove it by staging a primary election within Thai Rak Thai to allow members to nominate their own candidates in future elections.

“I will get rid of poverty, improve the country’s economy, increase export volumes, I think it’s cool to do all that,” he said. He explained that in envisioning his last moments on earth as an old man one day, he would like to die with a smile on his face in the knowledge that he had made Thai people richer and Thailand well respected abroad.

He vowed to eradicate endemic corruption in the land and said he would appoint his Cabinet only from among transparently upright politicians.

He also challenged people to watch out for vote purchasers. He said he would double the prize money for anyone who disclosed vote buyers for other parties and quadruple the money if any Thai Rak Thai member or candidate were found to be involved in vote-buying shenanigans.

“I have the same amount of power as did any other prime minister in the past,” he added. “Yet I have a special power because I always do what I say.”

While campaigning in Ratchaburi earlier yesterday, Thaksin urged voters to elect him for a second term, saying they alone could determine his fate by voting for his party through both the constituency and proportional representation ballots.

“Please vote Thai Rak Thai so I can continue to serve you as prime minister,” he said.

Thaksin said his supporters should not expect the Chat Thai Party to remain loyal to the coalition alliance.

“I fear that Chat Thai leader Banharn Silapa-archa has been wavering,” he said.

Thaksin added that his leadership would ensure the continuity and stability needed to tackle deep-rooted problems such as poverty, illegal drugs and corruption.

In a lightning campaign run covering three provinces in one day, he repeated his message in Nakhon Pathom and Bangkok, urging voters to pick his party’s ballot number – nine – on both their constituency and party-list ballots.

“I can no longer expect the support of any coalition partner. Only you voters can mark the ballot number nine and help deliver me into office,” he said in Nakhon Pathom.

While Thaksin was on the campaign trail, his wife Khunying Pojaman Shinawatra officiated at the opening of a Thai Rak Thai office in Nakhon Pathom’s Muang district.

The new office has been designated as a coordination centre for the party’s activities in the central region.

Reacting to Thaksin’s statement later, Banharn said he viewed it as campaign rhetoric.

Thanyaporn Kunakornpaiboonsiri

The Nation

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Democrats make last-ditch plea for enough seats to stop PM from becoming dictator

In its last attempt to challenge the power of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his Thai Rak Thai Party before voters go to the polls tomorrow, the Democrat Party yesterday pleaded with them to help prevent an “authoritarian leader” from steering the country to disaster in the next four years.

“Give us your vote to fulfil our 201-seat campaign to stop Thaksin from ruining this country,” said Democrat leader Banyat Bantadtan at the party’s rally at the Royal Plaza, a few kilometres from Sanam Luang, where Thai Rak Thai simultaneously held its own rally.

Banyat attacked Thaksin, saying the country would be in peril if the people gave overwhelming power to one man without leaving any channels to scrutinise him.

The Democrat leader said that throughout the four years under his rule, Thaksin had gained control of all branches of power and wiped out any attempts to examine his administration.

“It’s the government of one man and one dictator,” Banyat said.

The Democrat leader said Thaksin and his government friends had become rich from exploiting state authority to benefit their family businesses, while most people still struggled in an economy which was suffering.

He said that what had transpired over the past four years was the direct opposite to what Thaksin had promised when he assumed power in 2001, which was to see to it that everyone prospered.

“Vote for the Democrat Party to punish Thaksin,” Banyat said.

At yesterday’s Democrat rally, more than 10,000 supporters cheered and screamed while waving party flags and small boards showing messages of support for the party such as “Love the Democrats” and “Give the Democrats 201 seats”.

The plaza was a sea of light blue – the party’s colour – as supporters listened to Banyat, who stood on a stage in front of a big blue board displaying images of himself and deputy leader Abhisit Vejjajiva.

The Democrats are investing heavily on trying to win more than 200 of the 500 House seats so that they can launch a censure debate against the prime minister if he is re-elected. Four years ago, the party only snared 130 seats.

Weerayut Chokchaimadon

The Nation

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Nation Group has election day covered

If there is to be wall-to-wall coverage of tomorrow’s general election, this will be it. Almost 1,000 Nation Multimedia Group (NMG) reporters are gearing up to report on every newsworthy development during the election through a countrywide network of national and cable television channels, newspapers, radio stations, Internet sites, and even mobile phone messaging systems.

The NMG, in cooperation with six allied television stations, Advanced Info Service Plc (AIS), and TOT Corp Plc, has also recruited almost 20,000 volunteers for all 400 constituencies, to aid in reporting on latest ballot counts through hotlines to the NMG Election 2005 Information Centre and its 250 powered-up computers.

Nation TV, which is operated by the NMG, will join hands with Channel 7 to broadcast live “Senthang Soo Sapha 48” (Road to Parliament 2005) from 7.45am tomorrow until the ballot count is due to be completed on Monday morning.

The Nation Channel’s 24-hour satellite news station on Thai TV Channel 1 will metamorphose into a 36-hour election news station from 6am tomorrow to 6pm on Monday. It will be reporting on election results and providing analyses, as well as occasional news summaries in English.

Meanwhile, Thai TV Channel 2 will join hands with the Nation Channel to air live ballot-counting reports from polling stations, peppered with regular news reports and analyses up until polling is over in all 400 constituencies and party-list results are also in for the remaining 100 seats of the House.

All local cable channels will operate election channels using ADSL technology to get live reports from 10 constituencies in large provinces as well as minute-by-minute ballot results from the Nation Channel’s website to keep viewers abreast of developments. The NMG, the Thailand Cable TV Association, and TT&T Plc will jointly host the project.

Nation Radio will have its regional reporters and those working for the Nation News Agency to file hourly election updates from 6am tomorrow. Listeners in Bangkok and nearby provinces will be able to tune in to the Defence Ministry’s FM90.5 radio station and to the Kasetsart University Radio Station AM1107. Listeners in and around Chiang Mai will be able to tune in for election updates to AM612, those in and around Khon Kaen to AM1314, and those in and around Songkhla to AM 1269.

A special programme titled “Leuktang 48 Warapratedthai” (Election 2005; Thailand’s Agenda) will air from 2.30pm tomorrow to noon on Monday.

Internet buffs won’t be without extensive news sources, either. They can follow updated news at www.komchadluek.com, www.bangkokbiznews.com, www.nationmultimedia.com, or else watch live sight-and-sound reports via high-speed Internet connection at www.nationchannel.com, www.hispeedworld.com, and www.bblife.com.

Those on the move will be able to receive Short Message Service (SMS) and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) election alerts from NMG’s Nation Mobile News via DTAC (press *1141, apply for service call 1800), AIS (press *822-02-110, apply for service call 1175), and Hutch (apply for service at 1128).

The Monday editions of Kom Chad Luek, Krungthep Turakij and The Nation – the NMG’s daily newspapers – will prominently feature election news and results, coupled with expert analyses. The Nation Weekender magazine’s Election Outcome issue will in turn provide details of all constituencies and MP candidates, as well as analyses.

Published on February 05, 2005