- Title: THAILAND: Thai party leaders gear up for election just two days ahead of election
- Date: 2nd July 2011
- Summary: BANGKOK, THAILAND (JULY01, 2011) (REUTERS) RAJAMANGALA STADIUM PUEA THAI SUPPORTERS HOLDING UMBRELLAS IN HEAVY RAIN VARIOUS OF PEOPLE LISTENING TO SPEECH AMID RAIN PUEA THAI PRIME MINISTER CANDIDATE, YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA ON STAGE TALKING (SOUNDBITE) (Thai) YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA SAYING: "Puea Thai and I will immediately do what we have promised to you." PUEA THAI SUPPORTERS CHEERING VARIOUS OF YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA GREETING SUPPORTERS SUPPORTERS CHEERING/YINGLUCK GESTURING NUMBERE ONE ON STAGE BANGKOK, THAILAND (JULY01, 2011) (REUTERS) ROYAL PLAZA PRIME MINISTER ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA WALKING ON STAGE/GREETING DEMOCRAT SUPPORTERS DEMOCRAT SUPPORTERS HOLDING UMBRELLA LISTENING TO SPEECH SUPPORTERS HOLDING FLOWERS/CHEERING VARIOUS OF SUPPORTERS CHEERING DEMOCRAT SUPPORTERS GESTURING NUMBER TEN/SHOUTING NUMBER TEN ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA RECEIVING FLOWERS FROM SUPPORTERS ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA TALKING ON STAGE/DEMOCRAT MEMBER BEHIND (SOUNDBITE) (Thai) THAI PRIME MINISTER ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA SAYING: "They(Puea Thai) announce clearly that the most important thing is to bring Thaksin back home." VARIOUS OF DEMOCRAT SUPPORTERS WEARING RAIN COAT/CHEERING VARIOUS OF DEMOCRAT SUPPORTERS LISTENING TO SPEECH AMID RAIN
- Embargoed: 17th July 2011 13:00
- Location: Thailand, Thailand
- Country: Thailand
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVAB5ZVFH5RD4A3BW3UKYFPMJFS0
- Story Text: Thai party leaders promised peace and unity at rain-soaked rallies on Friday (July 1), two days ahead of an election many fear will inflame a sometimes violent six-year political crisis.
Opinion polls ahead of Sunday's election favour the opposition Puea Thai (For Thais) party led by Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, the figurehead of the rural and urban poor "red shirts" whose protests last year ended in a bloody army crackdown.
The telegenic 44-year-old businesswoman has electrified supporters with the prospect of becoming Thailand's first elected woman prime minister, vowing to revive Thaksin-style populist policies ranging from a minimum wage hike to subsidies for farmers.
Many supporters want her to go further and bring back Thaksin himself.
Their red T-shirts are often emblazoned with the image of the former telecoms tycoon, who was removed in a 2006 military coup and lives in Dubai to evade jail for graft charges he says were politically motivated.
At a stadium packed with about 20,000 people, many under umbrellas in driving rain, Yingluck ticked off a list of promises - from credit cards for taxi drivers to a big rise in wages and said if elected she will immediately deliver what on what she said.
"Puea Thai and I will immediately do what we have promised to you"said Yingluck Shinawatra Yingluck has been feted like a rock-star at rallies festooned with placards accusing the rich, the establishment and the military of breaking laws with impunity - grievances that have simmered since the coup that toppled her brother.
Not far away, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva said to 15,000 of his supporters that Puea Thai promised to bring convicted former prime minister Thaksin back.
Many fear that might trigger further conflict and violence.
"They (Puea Thai) announce clearly that the most important thing is to bring Thaksin back home" he said to his supporters amid heavy rain.
Oxford-graduated Abhisit Vejjajiva has cast the vote as a chance to rid Thailand of the "poison" of Thaksin, a divisive figure reviled by the royalist elite as much as he is idolised in the low-income rural heartlands as the first elected leader to address their needs.
To his critics, Thaksin is seen as a terrorist and a crony capitalist who plundered the economy while in power from 2001 until the 2006 coup and led a red-shirt protest movement that reduced parts of Bangkok to smouldering ruins last year.
But Abhisit too is seen as a polarising premier who steered Thailand perilously close to civil conflict last year.
After 91 people, mostly civilians, were killed, his denial that troops were responsible for a single death or injury was mocked even in the Democrat stronghold of Bangkok.
Videos were posted on Youtube allegedly showing military snipers firing on civilians.
That polarisation, broadly between the urban and rural poor on one side and the Bangkok establishment on the other, has fanned fears that the losers of the election will not accept the results, a tangible risk in a country that has seen 18 coups since the 1930s and five years of sporadic protests.
Recent polls suggest Puea Thai could win at least 240 seats in the 500-seat parliament, but that is no guarantee Yingluck will govern.
Most doubt either side will secure an outright majority, opening the way for both to cut deals with smaller parties to form a coalition.
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