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The unlucky road for Yingluck

By Nattavud Pimpa - posted Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra has made it to the Thai parliament. Her decisive victory in last weekend's national election in Thailand will make her the first female PM in the history of the kingdom. One important job for Ms. Shinawatra is to restore political stability to a nation which has been severely damaged by political conflicts in the last five years.

She was the choice of her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, to lead the party because of family bonds, not because of her outstanding reputation as a top politician or bright manager. This may also be why most Thais voted for her. The shadow of Thaksin is, and will always be, with her.

In the last 14 days of the election, the slogan "Thaksin Thinks, we act" were used as the political mantra to mesmerise Thaksin admirers. Thaksin Shinawatra, was successful in promoting populist policies such as the war against drugs, the 30-baht health scheme, and the One-Tambon-One-Product initiative. The majority of rural Thais seem to believe that such populist policies can improve their quality of living, although some economists, social policy analysts and health practitioners warn of their consequences. Yingluck and the Pheu Thai party were clever enough to emphasize such ideas in the final moments of the election.


Although Pheu Thai won 265 seats, Yingluck is currently working to form a coalition government with Chart Thai Pattana Party, Palang Chol Party, and Chart Pattana Pheu Pandin Party. If she is successful, she will be able to claim the majority (298 seats) in the parliament.

Without her brother's support, it is unlikely that she will be able to manage the allocation of key Ministries to each party. The history of Thai politics confirms that one of the hardest tasks for all Thai PMs is to decide who to run the Ministries of Defence, Internal Affairs, and Foreign Affairs. At present, Thais are waiting to see who those 'qualified' Ministers will be.

Another challenge for Yingluck is the possibility of repatriating her brother to the Kingdom of Thailand. Being a Shinawatra and knowing that red-shirt supporters are keen on that idea, Yingluck may be planning this as a future move in the game. But her arch rival, the Democrat Party, is opposed to a return by Thaksin. They warn that Thaksin's return would be disastrous, taking the country back to the divide between the yellow and red shirt camps.

Some political analysts suggest Yingluck will put the question of her brother to one side. What is more important for her and Pheu Thai is the short and long-term strategies to move Thailand beyond the past conflict.

There are doubts about her sincerity, worries about her inexperience and a real fear that her brother may overrule her after the election. Apart from the obvious link with her brother, most Thais in Bangkok and the southern provinces seem to be disappointed with the result of this election because of her lack of experiences in politics. Her most extravagant promises may be impressive but her opponents will remember them. Failing to deliver all of them is not an option for Ms. Shinawatra.

In responding to the announcement of the victory for the Pheu Thai party, she stated,


''I don't want to say that Pheu Thai has won, but I am glad for the chance to work for the people."

''I will follow my heart and use my brain to help solve Thailand's problems.''

Thais are waiting to see if their first female Thai PM can follow her heart and step out of her brother's shadow. During the campaign the electoral committee said that the future of Thailand is in your (Thais) hand. It is obvious that Thais have chosen their future. The consequence of the election will be incredibly interesting.

Dr.Nattavud Pimpa is a senior lecturer in international management at RMIT University.

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About the Author

Dr Nattavud Pimoa is an Associate Professor in international business at the School of Management, RMIT University.

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