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Thailand's PM fights uphill reelection battle

Polls suggest that Thailand's opposition Puea Thai Party (PTP), which is loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and led by his sister, will win the largest share in a divisive July 3 parliamentary vote.

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Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of toppled former Thai premier Thaksin Shinawatra and the prime ministerial candidate for the country's biggest opposition Pheu Thai Party, greets her supporters during an election campaign in Nong Khai province, east of Bangkok, last week.

Sukree Sukplang/Reuters

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Nearly five years after a military coup upended a fragile democracy and set off chaotic political convulsions, Thailand is gearing up for a critical election on July 3.

Voters are electing lawmakers to a 500-seat parliament, in which two major parties are vying to lead a coalition government. Polls suggest that the opposition Puea Thai Party (PTP), which is loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and led by his sister, will win the largest share in what would be a rerun of a December 2007 election held under military rule.

Analysts warn, however, that a PTP-led government could be unstable due to resistance from the military and other forces opposed to the rehabilitation of Mr. Thaksin, who held power before the coup. Conversely, a military-backed coalition that shuts out PTP may trigger mass protests by Thaksin's antigovernment "red-shirt" supporters in Thailand, a longtime US military ally.

Critical succession period

For Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, the Oxford-educated leader of the ruling Democrat Party, an election defeat could lead to more than a contrite concession speech. PTP leaders have threatened to investigate Mr. Abhisit for ordering last year’s suppression of violent red-shirt demonstrators in Bangkok in which 92 people died. Scores of protesters were jailed for violent acts but no civilian or military official has faced prosecution.

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