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Last Updated: Monday, 21 January 2008, 12:33 GMT
New parliament meets in Thailand
PPP Samak Sundaravej arrives at parliament ahead of its inaugural meeting
The PPP, lead by Mr Samak, won the most votes in December polls
An elected parliament has convened in Thailand for the first time since the military seized power in a coup in September 2006.

The session follows polls in December and the announcement on Saturday of the formation of a six-party coalition led by the People Power Party (PPP).

The PPP, which is loyal to ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, won the largest share of the vote.

PPP head Samak Sundaravej looks likely to be named prime minister on Friday.

An elected parliament last met in Thailand in February 2006, before Mr Thaksin called a snap election.

The polls were later annulled and shortly afterwards the military seized power, installing an appointed legislature.

December's general election was aimed at returning the country to democratic rule.

Corruption claims

Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn presided over the brief opening ceremony at the House of Representatives in the capital, Bangkok.

"Parliament convening is a sign of the good beginning of democracy in our country," he said.

"Your mission is very important - to restore stability and make the country unite, with stability and peace."

Official parliamentary work is due to begin on Tuesday, when lawmakers will meet to elect a speaker.

The PPP, which won 233 of the legislature's 480 seats, has formed a coalition with five smaller parties.

The bloc now controls some 315 seats, leaving the Democrat Party as the sole opposition.

Negotiations over the distribution of cabinet posts are still continuing.

On Friday, lawmakers will choose a prime minister, with Mr Samak considered a front-runner.

Before the election, the former Bangkok governor pledged to bring Mr Thaksin back to Thailand from self-imposed exile in London.

Last year a military-appointed panel banned Mr Thaksin from politics and he still faces corruption charges.

But the ousted leader has indicated he could now return to Thailand as early as April - a move that is unlikely to please the military.



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