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Saphaphuthan Ratsadon (House of Representatives)

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Parliament name (generic / translated) Rathasapha / National Assembly
Structure of parliament Bicameral
Chamber name (generic / translated) Saphaphuthan Ratsadon / House of Representatives
Related chamber (for bicameral parliaments) Wuthisapha / Senate
Dates of election / renewal (from/to) 3 July 2011
Purpose of elections Elections were held for all the seats in the House of Representatives following the premature dissolution of this body on 10 May 2011. Elections to the House of Representatives had previously taken place in December 2007.
At stake in the 2011 elections were 500 seats in the House of Representatives (up from 480). Elections were constitutionally due by December 2011.

The previous elections to the House of Representatives (December 2007) were the first to be held since then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a military take-over in September 2006. A new party formed by his supporters, the People Power Party (PPP), took 233 of the 480 seats at stake. The Democratic Party (DP), led by Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva, took 164 seats. Following the elections, five parties - the Chartthai Party (CTP, 34 seats), the Puea Pandin Party (24 seats), the Ruam Jai Thai Chart Pattana Party (RC, nine seats), the Matchimathipataya Party (MCM, 11 seats) and the Pracharaj Party (PRP, five seats) - agreed to participate in a PPP-led government, effectively making the DP the sole opposition party in the new House of Representatives. In January 2008, the House of Representatives elected PPP deputy leader Yongyuth Tiyapairat as its new Speaker and PPP leader Samak Sundaravej as the new Prime Minister.

In March 2008, elections were held for the 76 directly elected seats in the 150-seat Senate (the others are indirectly elected by the Senate Selection Commission). Later the same month, the new Senate held its first session, thereby officially re-establishing the Thai National Assembly, which had been dissolved in the 2006 coup. In keeping with the transitional measures stipulated in the 2007 Constitution, the 74 senators selected by the Senate Selection Commission would serve a three-year term from March 2008, instead of the usual six years. Former Prime Minister Thaksin continued to cast a shadow over the new legislature.

Following investigations into allegations of electoral fraud, Mr. Yongyuth resigned as Speaker in late April 2008 and was replaced by Mr. Chai Chidchob (PPP) in May. In July, the Constitutional Court convicted Mr. Yongyuth of vote-buying in the 2007 elections and barred him from holding public office for five years. Although he was not an executive member of the PPP, the court ruling against him paved the way for the Election Commission to investigate whether the PPP was involved in vote-buying in the 2007 poll. In September, the Election Commission recommended that the Constitutional Court dissolve the PPP. Later the same month, former executive members of the Thai Love Thai party (Thai Rak Thai, which had been dissolved by a court order in May 2006) formed the Pheu Thai Party (PP, meaning "For Thais") under the leadership of Deputy Finance Minister Suchart Thadathamrongvej.

Later, in September 2008, the Constitutional Court found Prime Minister Samak guilty of breaching conflict-of-interest laws, ruling that he had violated the Constitution by accepting payment for appearing on two cookery shows while in office. The Court ordered Mr. Samak and his cabinet to resign within 30 days of a caretaker government being appointed. Although the PPP-led government initially tried to reinstate Mr. Samak as Prime Minister, in late September it endorsed Mr. Somchai Wongasat (PPP), a brother-in-law of former Prime Minister Thaksin, as his successor.

In October 2008, the Supreme Court sentenced former Prime Minister Thaksin in absentia to two years' imprisonment for corruption. The Attorney General stated that the sentence would expire in 10 years, after which Mr. Thaksin could return to Thailand without fear of being imprisoned.

The People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD), a loose group reportedly comprising royalists and the urban middle class that came to be known as the "Yellow Shirts" (for their yellow T-shirts), launched a series of demonstrations, accusing the new Prime Minister of leading a government by proxy for Mr. Thaksin. In late November, the PAD occupied the country's two main airports, demanding the Prime Minister's immediate resignation and causing over 300,000 passengers to be stranded. During the PAD protest, in early December, the Constitutional Court found three parties of the PPP-led coalition government - the PPP, the CTP and the MCM - guilty of election fraud in the 2007 elections. The executives of those parties, including Prime Minister Somchai, were barred from public office for five years.

Prime Minister Somchai subsequently resigned and was replaced by 44-year-old DP leader Abhisit. In mid-December, the latter became the kingdom's youngest prime minister in over 60 years. Mr. Abhisit's government controlled 250 seats in the 480-member House of Representatives. It comprised small parties in the outgoing PPP-led government - the PP, the RC, former members of the disbanded CTP and MCM - as well as the Friends of Newin Group, a faction within the PPP led by Mr. Newin Chidchob, one of Speaker Chai's sons. The Friends of Newin Group subsequently joined the Bhumjaithai Party (BJT), which in turn joined the DP-led government. Other PPP members joined the PP and elected Mr. Yongyuth Wichaidit as the party's new leader.

The United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), formed in 2006 by supporters of Mr. Thaksin, has spearheaded a series of demonstrations since he was ousted. The UDD, or "Red Shirts" (so called because of their red T-shirts), argued that the DP-led government lacked legitimacy as it had been formed through a parliamentary agreement rather than general elections. The Red Shirts are said to be essentially rural workers and students. In March 2010, they started a major anti-government demonstration in Bangkok that turned violent in April, effectively shutting down the capital's commercial district. After a stand-off that lasted weeks, the military intervened in mid-May and dispersed the Red Shirts. Ninety-one 91 lives were lost on both sides. Hundreds were injured and many buildings torched. The country's economy was badly affected.

In December, the border dispute between Thailand and Cambodia over the Preah Vihear temple site (see note 1) was rekindled when seven Thai citizens were accused of illegally entering Cambodia. The Yellow Shirts, who had backed Prime Minister Abhisit thus far, accused the government of surrendering Thailand's sovereignty by allowing Cambodia to try the Thai nationals in question. In January 2011 they started to protest against the government, accusing the Prime Minister of failing to resolve the border dispute with Cambodia and calling on the government to withdraw Thailand from the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

In February, the House of Representatives enacted constitutional amendments to increase the statutory number of seats from 480 to 500, 375 of which are filled under the majority system (down from 400) and 125 of which are filled under the proportional representation system (up from 80). The PP criticized the amendments, which in its view would favour small parties in the DP-led coalition government.

In April 2011, half of the membership of the Senate was renewed, replacing the members selected in February 2008. The 73 members selected in 2011 will serve a six-year term (see note 2). Since the one-term limit did not apply to the senators indirectly elected in 2008, 31 outgoing senators were re-elected. On 4 May, King Bhumibol Adulyadej appointed Mr. Teeradej Meepien, an army general, as the new Senate President.

On 6 May, Prime Minister Abhisit announced that he would seek the King's endorsement to dissolve the House of Representatives with a view to holding early elections in June or July. On 10 May, with the King's approval, the House of Representatives was officially dissolved and elections scheduled for 3 July. The following day, a PP candidate was shot while driving. The Prime Minister, the military and the police called for peaceful election campaigns.

In all, 3,832 candidates from 42 parties contested the 2011 elections. The main contenders were Prime Minister Abhisit's DP - the country's oldest party, which had not won a general election in two decades - and the PP. The latter endorsed Ms. Yingluck Shinawatra - former Prime Minister Thaksin's youngest sister - as its candidate for the premiership. PP candidates included 25 UDD members. The Yellow Shirts called for a boycott of the elections.

Both the DP and the PP ran on similar platforms, promising to raise the minimum wage, improve public transportation and provide affordable health care. The PP's plan included doubling the minimum wage to US$ 10 a day and providing 800,000 tablet computers to new schoolchildren each year.

The media focused on whether the PP would win enough seats to return Mr. Thaksin's camp to power, thereby pushing policy debates to the back burner.

Prime Minister Abhisit called on voters to support the DP, arguing that a PP victory would trigger unrest and instability. He qualified the 2011 polls as an opportunity to "detoxify" the country of Mr. Thaksin's "poison". Mr. Prawit Wongsuwan - outgoing Defence Minister and a retired general - stated that the army would accept the poll outcome.

Mr. Thaksin - who has been living in self-imposed exile in Dubai since 2008 - agreed to a series of interviews in which he stated that he had no plans to return to Thailand as prime minister. The PP said it would not support an amnesty for Mr. Thaksin. Ms. Yingluck, who aspired to become the country's first woman prime minister, pledged to work for unity and reconciliation.

Mr. Chaovarat Chanweerakul's BJT (in fact led by Mr. Newin) promised to create more jobs, cut living costs and lower the value-added tax by two per cent. In March it had formed an alliance with Mr. Chumpol Silapa-archa's Chart Thai Pattana Party (Thai National Development). The coalition stated that it would join whichever party was voted into power - the DP or the PP.

On 25 June, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee decided to draw up a management plan for the Preah Vihear temple site. Thailand, which had requested a deferral of any management plan until the border dispute was settled, announced that it would withdraw from the Committee and the 1972 World Heritage Convention.

On 3 July, 65.99 per cent of the nearly 47 million registered voters turned out at the polls.

The preliminary results gave 265 seats to the PP, effectively allowing it to form a new government on its own. The DP came in second with 159 seats. The BJT and the Chart Thai Pattana took 34 and 19 seats respectively. The remainder went to small parties, which took fewer than seven seats each. Prime Minister Abhisit conceded defeat and resigned as DP leader on 4 July.

Over 1,900 complaints of election fraud were filed with the Election Commission. On 9 July, the DP filed a petition asking the Election Commission to recommend that the Constitutional Court dissolve the PP. The DP argued that disbanded Thai Rak Thai party members had helped select the PP's candidates and prepare policies, even though Article 97 of the Political Party Act specifically prohibits banned politicians from founding or being executives of a political party for five years.

On 1 August, the newly elected House of Representatives held its first session. The following day, it elected Mr. Somsak Kiatsuranond (PP) as its new Speaker.

On 5 August, the House of Representatives elected Ms. Yingluck (PP) as the new Prime Minister, the first woman in Thailand to assume the post. Ms. Yingluck formed a six-party coalition government, controlling a total of 300 seats. Her government comprised the PP, the Chart Thai Pattana (19 seats), the Chart Pattana Pheu Pandin (National Development, seven seats), the Palung Chon Party (seven seats), Mahachon (Great People's party, 1 seat), and the New Democrat Party (one seat).

Note 1:
In 1962, the International Court of Justice awarded the temple site to Cambodia but the land around the temple (4.6 km) continued to be a bone of contention. The site cannot be reached through Cambodia. In July 2008, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee listed the temple as a World Heritage Site in Cambodia, requiring Thailand to allow access to the site through its borders.

Note 2:
The Senate, which was re-established in 2008, comprised 76 directly elected members (one per province or changwat). In March 2011, a new province, Bueng Kan, was created, raising the number of senators elected directly to 77 and lowering the number elected indirectly to 73. The 2011 renewal thus related to 73 indirectly elected senators. The term of the 76 members directly elected in 2008 runs until March 2014, when fresh Senate elections are due. The seat in Bueng Kan Province will remain vacant until that time.
Voter turnout
Round no 13 July 2011
Number of registered electors
Blank or invalid ballot papers
Valid votes
About 47,000,000

Distribution of seats
Round no 1
Political Group Total Majority PR
Pheu Thai party (PP) 265 204 61
Democrat Party (DP) 159 115 44
Bhum Jai Thai (BJT) 34 29 5
Chart Thai Pattana 19 15 4
Chart Pattana Pheu Pandin 7 5 2
Palanchon 7 6 1
Rak Thailand 4 0 4
Matubhum 2 1 1
Rak Santi 1 0 1
Mahachon 1 0 1
New Democrat Party 1 0 1
Distribution of seats according to sex
Percent of women
Distribution of seats according to age
Distribution of seats according to profession
Source: House of Representatives (05.08.2011, 08.08.2011)

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