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Last Updated: Monday, 3 April 2006, 11:36 GMT 12:36 UK
Thai PM struggles to win mandate

Thaksin Shinawatra
Mr Thaksin is due to speak on television later on Monday
The party of Thai PM Thaksin Shinawatra has won Sunday's general election, but a big protest vote means the country's political crisis is unlikely to end.

The election commission says enough votes have been counted to declare Mr Thaksin's party winners in a poll the opposition boycotted.

But it says by-elections must be held in 38 constituencies where candidates failed to win the 20% vote threshold.

All 500 seats in parliament must be filled for it to convene legally.

On Monday the prime minister said he would consider proposals for "reconciliation".

I hope that [the PM] will step down and finally allow the country to heal
Sakabatou, Bangkok

According to some Thai media reports, Mr Thaksin may be thinking of handing over to one of his deputies as a way of defusing the tension.

He told reporters: "If the media give me an option that could reconcile all sides, I don't necessarily need to be the prime minister. But this doesn't mean that I will continue to be or I won't be the prime minister."

He is expected to give a television interview later on Monday.

Bangkok blow

Mr Thaksin had called the snap election in an attempt to end months of instability over claims by the opposition that he was corrupt and had abused power.

The parliament has 500 seats
Of these, 400 are directly elected. A candidate must win 20% of the votes in a seat to be an MP
The other 100 seats are elected by proportional representation. A party must win 5% nationally to be eligible
All 500 must be filled for parliament to convene
Only a convened parliament can elect a PM and form a government
Unfilled seats require by-elections

But the main opposition parties refused to put up candidates and in 278 out of 400 constituencies, Mr Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai party ran unopposed.

Mr Thaksin had said he would step down if he failed to win 50% of the vote.

The prime minister said on Monday he remained "confident" he would reach that threshold, but as he attended the Thai Rak Thai meeting he hinted at compromise: "I am ready to accept any proposals on how to achieve national reconciliation."

Foreign Minister Kanthathi Suphamongkhon later echoed this, telling the BBC the PM would be "willing to be open to possible different arrangements to move ahead with national reconciliation". He did not specify what those might be.

Full official results are not expected until later on Monday or even Tuesday.

But Mr Thaksin's party is known to have suffered badly in Bangkok.

Although his party won all 36 seats with 46% of the vote, more people - 50% - ticked the "no vote" option on the ballot paper, according to partial voting returns.

Polling station in Bangkok
Voting is compulsory in Thailand

Mr Thaksin said: "I don't want to make any comment about the strong 'no vote' in Bangkok. I already knew that was going to happen."

The abstention vote was also strong in many areas of the far south.

The prime minister is still popular in the north and rural areas and early results showed him achieving easy victories there.

Election Commission secretary-general Ekachai Warunprapha said the 38 constituencies where candidates failed to win the 20% needed to become MPs were all in opposition strongholds in the south.

The constitution requires parliament to convene within 30 days of the poll and Mr Ekachai said the commission planned to run two rounds of by-elections within that period.

Analysts say there was no guarantee those by-elections would produce duly elected MPs.

Mr Ekachai said the commission had "a plan" in that eventuality, but would not disclose it.

Anti-Thaksin demonstrators have said they will continue their campaign against him whatever the election results.

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