Monday, December 15, 2008
Abhisit: The 27th PM at 44...Will he be Thailand's "Obama(rk)?"
He was never sure until the real votes were counted this morning in the House of Representatives. The 235 votes he got (against 198 for Police Gen Pracha Promnok, nominated by Thaksin Shinawatra's side) weren't overwhelming. But the margin of 37 votes was comforting enough.
It will be a daunting task indeed for Abhisit Vejjajiva (nicknamed "Mark"), Thailand's youngest prime minister ever. But he will be taking over the country at a critical and confusing time. The fact that he owes his rise to a tainted faction led by Newin Chidchob, once the Democrat Party's arch-rival, will remain a big question mark. Speculation that the army chief, Police Gen Anupong Paochinda, had a hand in manipulating this outcome will prove a negative mark that's difficult to delete.
But the test will be how Abhisit can unite a highly divisive country -- and whether he can implement a massive stimulus economic package that will prove that when it comes to economics, he is no novice, compared to Thaksin who left his mark in the rural areas as the man who injected money and life into the villages.
Abhisit has vowed to lead the Cabinet's economic team himself. He has also said he will move the date of the Asean summit earlier from March to February to restore the region's confidence in Thailand, the Asean's current chairman.
Will he be able to create, like Barack Obama, a "team of rivals" to show that he is an "inclusive" leader? Can he show the "red shirted people" that he is also their leader?
If Abhisit can't show some concrete results in the first 100 days, he is doomed.