Bangkok: Fresh from victory in Thailand`s election, the party of fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra met on Tuesday to discuss the shape of the next government in the face of high expectations among voters.
Puea Thai party leaders gathered at their headquarters in Bangkok after clinching a convincing majority in Sunday`s crucial vote, nearly five years after their figurehead was toppled from power in a military coup.
Thaksin`s sister Yingluck Shinawatra, a political newcomer who is set to be the first Thai female premier, faces a formidable task in bringing stability to a kingdom that has been riven by political crises since her brother`s ouster.
"Yingluck will attend a party meeting. We have to look at the results of the election and meet with representatives and working groups to prepare to deliver on our promises to the people," said party spokesman Prompong Nopparit.
Another party source said they would begin discussing cabinet positions, although a cautious Yingluck denied such negotiations were underway as she arrived at the party offices.
"We have not decided on anyone yet," she told reporters, saying they would wait for the electoral commission to certify the poll results.
Yingluck announced a coalition deal with four smaller parties on Monday to shore up her grip on power, and together the partners will hold about three fifths of the 500 seats in parliament.
Although Puea Thai won by a thumping 265 seats, it was quick to reach out to potential allies, partly to protect against possible future defections or the disqualification of some of its winning candidates in Sunday`s vote.
The establishment-backed Democrat Party of outgoing premier Abhisit Vejjajiva secured just 159 seats and quickly conceded defeat after two and a half years in power. Abhisit also resigned as party leader after the results.
Although Thaksin, who controls Puea Thai from his Dubai base, is unpopular with the Thai elites and the military, fears of another coup abated on Monday as the outgoing defence minister said the Army accepted the results.
Thaksin himself has vowed not to seek revenge over a deadly military crackdown on his "Red Shirt" supporters in Bangkok last year which ended with more than 90 people dead and buildings aflame across the city.
While Thaksin`s allies will not wish to alienate the generals, they face pressure from the Reds to establish the facts behind the army assault which saw soldiers firing live ammunition as they stormed the Reds` rally camp.
Another key sticking point is the potential return of Thaksin, who insisted on Monday that he had no plan to return to office himself, and said that setting foot back in Thailand was not a priority.
"I`ve been with the party too long, and I really want to retire," the billionaire telecoms tycoon told reporters in Dubai, where he lives in self-imposed exile to avoid a jail term for corruption.
His sister has floated the idea of an amnesty to allow her brother to return, which would anger many in the Bangkok-based elites around the palace and Army and could prompt protests by the royalist "Yellow Shirt" movement.
An amnesty for banned politicians is "not a matter of vital national interest", an editorial in the Bangkok Post said on Monday, urging Yingluck to prioritise the economy.
"The return of Thaksin with a full political pardon is a potentially dangerous issue for this next prime minister to try and tackle through political means, especially now, at the beginning of her term," it said.