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Alliance News

Thai opposition selects indicted ex-premier as leader

Tue, 17th Dec 2013 07:54

Bangkok (Alliance News) - Thailand's main opposition party on Tuesday re-elected Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was indicted for murder last week, as the next leader of the kingdom's oldest political party.

At a party caucus the Democrats elected a new 35-member executive committee with Abhisit, 49, as party chief.

On December 12, the Criminal Court indicted Abhisit on murder charges for his role in ordering troops to disperse anti-government protesters in April-May, 2010, when he was prime minister. The crackdowns led to bloody street battles that left at least 92 dead.

The first challenge of the new Democrat leadership will be to decide whether or not to contest a snap general election scheduled for February 2.

"We still have a few days to decide," said party spokesman Chavanond Intharakomalsut. "The decision is sensitive, so we need to give the executive committee some time to consider it."

The Democrats have until December 23 to register to contest the upcoming polls.

Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called the February polls after mass protests in the capital forced her to dissolve parliament.

The Democrats boycotted elections in 2006, the year after Abhisit was first elected party leader.

It is widely expected that Yingluck's Pheu Thai Party, whose de facto leader is her brother Thaksin, will win the coming polls.

Pheu Thai won the last election in July 2011 with a majority of over 4 million votes, and Thaksin-supported parties have won every election in Thailand since 2001.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former Democrat executive, has vowed to "uproot the Thaksin regime" through street protests.

Suthep's followers are opposed to holding the election until political reforms are made to rid the electoral system of vote buying and raise penalties for corruption.

His People's Democratic Reform Committee is expected to call for a boycott of the polls, which would cut the Democrats' support base if they choose to contest the election, observers said.

Copyright dpa

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