Bangkok: Lawmakers elected a brother-in-law of deposed leader Thaksin Shinawatra as the new Prime Minister of Thailand on Wednesday, setting up a showdown with protesters determined to tear down his political legacy.
Somchai Wongsawat, a 61-year-old bureaucrat who is married to Thaksin’s sister, won a firm majority of votes in the Lower House of Parliament, backed by the governing six-party coalition. Lawmakers voted 298-163, with five abstentions.
“I would like to thank everyone for your confidence. I will carry out my duty to the best of my ability,” Somchai said, standing from his seat in Parliament after the house speaker read out the final tally. He then walked over to Opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and shook his hand.
The arrival of a new Prime Minister marked a small step forward in Thailand’s tumultuous political crisis, but not one likely to defuse it.
The vote, which still needs formal approval by Thailand’s king, drew immediate objection from anti-government protesters who have occupied the Prime Minister’s compound for over three weeks.
Somchai “might have a gentlemanly nature, a soft-spoken style and he might have a better reputation than everyone else (in the ruling party), but blood is thicker than water,” said Somsak Kosaisuk, a protest leader, to loud cheers from protesters camped on the grounds of Government House.