BANGKOK, September 11 – Thailand’s ruling party Thursday nominated Samak Sundaravej to return to power as prime minister, just two days after a court removed him from office, a spokesman said.
"A majority of the People Power Party supports Samak as candidate for prime minister. If he declines, we will find another candidate," a party spokesman, Suthin Klangsang, told a news conference.
The Constitutional Court stripped Samak from office on Tuesday, after ruling that he had illegally accepted payments for hosting TV cooking shows.
The decision adds a new chapter to the kingdom’s political crisis in which protesters have occupied the main government complex for over two weeks and a state of emergency has been imposed across Bangkok.
The ruling People Power Party’s (PPP) nomination of Samak had, at one point, seemed uncertain as splits emerged within the party ‘s ranks, with a spokesman explaining that two other candidates were being considered.
The party’s MPs met earlier today to decide whether to back Samak, Deputy Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, or justice minister Sompong Amornviwat, the spokesman said.
Both the new candidates seemed certain to inflame the protesters squatting at Government House, who want the entire cabinet to step down because of its ties to ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
Party spokesman Suthin Klangsaeng said Thaksin would be consulted about choosing a new premier, but would not make the decision.
"Thaksin’s support will be taken into consideration, but will not be decisive in determining the candidate," Suthin said.
"We have to listen to him, because Thaksin is still a Thai national," Suthin added.
Thaksin was toppled by the military in 2006 after the same protest group now squatting at Government House rallied against him for months.
The protesters, who call themselves the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD), have already vowed to keep up their campaign.
In addition to seeking to force out the government, they want to dramatically curtail Thailand’s democracy, demanding a parliament in which only 30 percent of the seats are elected.
By making 70 percent of the seats appointed, they hope to weaken the voting power of Thailand’s poor but populous heartland, where Thaksin earned steadfast support by providing universal health care and low-interest loans.
"Whoever becomes prime minister now, the PAD is not going to stop," said political analyst Thitinan Pongsudhirak.
"They want to move away from electoral politics toward a more privileged appointment" system, he said.
"Somchai would be an even bigger target than Samak. The PAD is not going to stop, they’re going to attack him even more vigorously," he added.