Samak Sundaravej Thailand’s new prime minister

By Xinhua

Bangkok : Thailand’s newly elected House of Representatives or the lower house of parliament Monday voted People Power Party (PPP) leader Samak Sundaravej as the country’s new prime minister.

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Samak, 72, was backed by 310 members of the 480-seat House of Representatives during voting Monday to elect a new premier.

Samak’s only rival was the 43-year-old Abhisit Vejjajiva, leader of the opposition Democrat Party, who got 163 votes.

A total of 477 members, whose victory in the Dec 23 general election had been endorsed by the Election Commission (EC), took part in the voting. Three members, including Samak, Abhisit and the house speaker, abstained.

During Monday’s voting, the votes for Samak came from the PPP MPs and fellow lawmakers from the other five smaller parties that had announced a coalition with the PPP to form a new government.

That leaves the Democrat Party, which was the second runner in the general election with 165 seats, as the only opposition party in the house.

The voting for prime minister was originally scheduled for Friday but later put off to Monday.

The new prime minister is expected to be sworn in after the appointment is endorsed by a decree from the king, while the cabinet line-up is to be unveiled in early February.

Samak, an outspoken veteran politician, will become Thailand’s 25th prime minister after the military top brass toppled the former elected government led by Thaksin Shinawatra in a military coup Sep 19, 2006 and appointed an interim government led by a retired general Surayud Chulanont.