Thailand in 21th century : Return to civilian rule
Civilian governments

Elections to choose a new civilian government were held as promised in December 2007. The People Power Party (PPP), a new party formed by former members of the dissolved Thai Rak Thai, won the largest share of the vote and formed a governing coalition with five smaller parties. PPP leader Samak Sundaravej, a veteran politician and supporter of Thaksin, became the new prime minister of Thailand. However, in September 2008 Samak was removed from office by a judicial ruling that found he had violated the constitution in accepting payments for appearing on a television cooking show. Citing the new constitution’s safeguards against corruption, the court found that the payments represented a conflict of interest.

Samak was succeeded by Somchai Wongsawat, Thaksin’s brother-in-law and a former judge and government official. Somchai’s close ties to Thaksin sparked protests from an opposition group known as the People’s Alliance for Democracy.

The protests escalated and resulted in a weeklong blockade that closed Bangkok’s two airports. The military refused to obey the government’s orders to crack down on the protests. In early December 2008 a court disbanded the PPP, ruling that it engaged in fraud during the 2007 election. In late December 2008 Thaksin’s supporters finally lost their grip on power as a coalition of opposition parties successfully formed a new government.

In disbanding Thai Rak Thai, the court also ruled that more than 100 Thai Rak Thai officials, including Thaksin, could not participate in politics for five years. That would prevent them from running in elections that the military government promised to hold by the end of 2007.
The leader of the Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva, was selected as the new prime minister. A special election (by-election) scheduled for January 2009, however, threatened to undermine the new coalition. Encarta
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