Pro-military parties win slim majority in Thailand


BANGKOK, Thailand -- Political parties aligned with Thailand's junta won more than half the parliamentary seats at stake yesterday in general elections, the first since the military toppled a democratically elected government in a bloodless coup 13 months ago.

While the results should allow the pro-military parties to dominate the new government, their victory was slim enough that it could -- hopes within the junta that one of the leaders of the coup will be named Thailand's prime minister.

Those three parties -- Chat Thai, Samakkhi Tham, and Social Action -- won 190, or 53 percent, of the 360 seats in the lower house of Parliament, according to a complete but unofficial tally.

The election was held on the same day that the junta, which calls itself the National Peacekeeping Council, named all 270 members of the Senate. More than half are military or police officers, and among them is the junta's leader, Gen. Sunthorn Kongsompong.

Thailand's constitution, rewritten last year at the direction of the junta, allows the junta's leaders to name the entire Senate.

Among those elected to the lower House was the party's leader, the former mayor of Bangkok, Chamlong Srimuang, a retired general and devout Buddhist known among Thais as "Mr. Clean." He is expected to be a future contender for national leadership and, certainly for now, a leading opposition figure in parliament.

Negotiations to form a new government were expected this week.

A leading candidate for the prime ministry is the army strongman, Gen. Suchinda Kraprayoon, an architect of the coup, and Thai politicians of all stripes agree that the job is probably his if he insists on it.

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