Thai politician says new coalition government at hand
November 7, 1997
Web posted at: 9:38 a.m. EST (1438 GMT)
BANGKOK, Thailand (CNN) -- After days of meetings behind closed doors, in hallways, even at downtown restaurants, the leader of Thailand's main opposition Democrat Party said Friday that he had the support of enough members of Parliament to run the crisis-hit government.
Democrat leader and former Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai said he would submit the list of MPs supporting his party to the president of the 393-seat Parliament.
Thailand's stock and currency markets rose 5 percent in response to Chuan's announcement. Many business leaders had backed his return to lead the next government.
"I am now ready to form a new coalition government as my party has been able to woo the support of more than 210 members of parliament," Chuan told a news conference after days of intense negotiations among politicians.
Coalition could be made official next week
The new eight-party coalition government, formed in the 12 hours after outgoing Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh resigned, will become official next week at the earliest.
Speaker of the House Wan Muhammad Noor Matha is expected to designate Chuan as the next prime minister on Saturday. The Democrat leader will then seek an audience with the Thai king to make it official.
Former leader's party concedes defeat
Chavalit's New Aspiration Party (NAP), the biggest member of his coalition government, conceded defeat in the race to form a new alliance.
The main members of Chavalit's six-party coalition had tried to form a new government led by former premier Chatichai Choonhavan -- leader of the second-largest partner, Chart Pattana -- but some smaller parties defected to Chuan's side.
Chavalit announced his resignation Friday, ending an 11-month tenure that saw Thailand's economy face its worst crisis in decades. The country is in the process of rebuilding its economy, with the help of a $17.2 billion bailout supervised by the International Monetary Fund.
On Thursday, the government announced the once-robust economy, previously among the fastest-growing in the world, was projected to shrink 1 to 1.5 percent this year. Its currency, the baht, has plunged to record lows since it was floated in July.
Chuan seen as honest but slow to act
Chuan was first elected prime minister in 1992 and served until 1995, when a land scandal split his coalition and his government collapsed.
He is considered honest by most Thais, a rare trait for Thai politicians. Public opinion of him may change, since Thailand's economic problems and the proposed IMF solutions could require a tax hike, a position that may be difficult to defend with new elections coming up next year.
Many also consider him slow to make decisions.
Nevertheless, Chuan is regarded by the business community as the best hope for the economy. His party has a good team of politicians with strong economic experience, and he is expected to be able to attract qualified technocrats to serve in economic portfolios.
"In my opinion the new coalition will receive a warm welcome from the public because people are battered from the economic slump. They will bring new hope to investors," said Sukhum Naunskul, a political scientist at Ramkamhaeng University.
Chuan said he realized the importance of solving the country's economic woes.
"We are aware of the immediate needs of the public, that they want us to help shore up the economy," Chuan said.
Bangkok Bureau Chief Tom Mintier, and Reuters contributed to this report.