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PPP leader elected Thailand's new PM
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Thailand's newly elected House of Representatives or Lower House on Monday voted People Power Party (PPP) leader Samak Sundaravej as the country's new Prime Minister.

Samak, 72, were backed with 310 votes at the balloting in the 480-seat House of Representatives meeting Monday chaired by newly elected House Speaker Yongyuth Tiyapairat, former deputy leader of PPP.

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

477 Members of Parliament, whose victory in the December 23 general election had been endorsed by the Election Commission (EC), took part in the voting. One was absent while voting and three abstained, including Samak, Abhisit and the House Speaker Yongyuth Tiyapairat.

The roll call voting was held after MPs disputed for 2 hours and 40 minutes as to whether a debate should be held before the voting.

At the beginning of the meeting, the Democrat Party MP Chamni Sakdiseth called for a debate before the House votes for the next prime minister. He made the proposal immediately after People Power Party leader Samak Sundarvej was nominated for the post of prime minister.

Chamni said the prime minister candidates should also deliver their visions to the House and should answer questions from MPs before the voting.

However, the PPP MP Chaowarin Latthasaksiri debated that the voting of PM in 2001 and 2004 did not have a debate either.

Finally, a total of 304 MPs voted to endorse the nomination of People Power Party leader Samak Sundaravej as a candidate for the post of prime minister.

According to the Constitution, an MP who officially names a candidate for the post must be supported by at least one-fifth of House members in the session. The supporting votes for an elected premier must be at least half of the total MPs in the forum.

The Constitution also requires a prime minister to be an elected MP. His tenure at the helm is four years with the maximum of eight years in office.

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. The coalition has left the Democrat Party, which was second runner in the general election with 165 seats, the sole opposition party in the House.

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

The new prime minister is expected to be sworn in after the appointment is endorsed by a Royal Decree from the King, while the cabinet line-up 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 on September 19, 2006 and appointed an interim government led by a retired general Surayud Chulanont.

Earlier, the PPP's deputy-secretary general Noppadol Pattama said the party has completed drafting its 45-page national policy to be announced to Parliament.

The PPP will discuss its policies with the coalition partners on January 30 and the final draft will be completed in February, he said, adding "our policies will get first priority even though there might be some alterations."

In the national policy draft, the party has maintained all policies of the now-disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party that brought it to the height of its popularity. They would include the village fund, education loan, two-and three-digit lottery, CEO governor, debt moratorium, village bank, million cattle plan and declaring war on drug.

On the Cabinet lineup issue, the PPP's secretary general Surapong Suebwonglee said on Monday that the party has scheduled Wednesday to meet with its coalition partners to draw up policies and allocate the Cabinet seats.

He played down the allegation that former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was pulling strings on the Cabinet lineup.

He also said the coalition alliance has yet to pick the finance minister, arguing that the appointment could be finalized only after the naming of the prime minister.

Earlier, local media said Samak has invited Virabongsa Ramangkura, the former finance minister, to retake the top post of the finance portfolio.

(Xinhua News Agency January 28, 2008)

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