Thailand's First Female Prime Minister
The sister of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra led Thailand's main opposition party to a landslide victory in elections Sunday, heralding an extraordinary political turnaround, five tumultuous years after her fugitive billionaire brother was toppled in an army coup.
The vote paves the way for 44-year-old Yingluck Shinawatra, who has never held office, to become this Southeast Asian kingdom's first female prime minister.
A large mandate to govern could help the new government navigate a way out of out of the crisis that has plagued Thailand since Thaksin's 2006 overthrow. But the question remains whether the nation's elite power brokers, including the monarchy and the army, would accept the result.
Thaksin was barred from politics years ago after a graft conviction, and the U.S.-educated Yingluck, who he calls "my clone," is widely considered her proxy.
The incumbent premier, Abhisit Vejjajiva, conceded defeat Sunday night and said he was ready to become the opposition.
With 94 percent of the vote counted, preliminary results from the Election Commission indicated Yingluck's Pheu Thai party had a strong lead with 261 of 500 parliament seats, well over the majority needed to form a government. Abhisit's Democrats had 162 seats.
Speaking to a throng of cheering supporters at her party headquarters in Bangkok, Yingluck declined to declare victory until final results are released. But she said: "I don't want to say that Pheu Thai wins today. It's a victory of the people."
In an interview broadcast on the Thai PBS television station, Thaksin called the preliminary outcome "a step forward."
"People are tired of a standstill," he said from the desert emirate of Dubai, where he lives in exile to avoid a two-year prison sentence for graft he says is politically motivated. "They want to see change in a peaceful manner."