Thailand expecting new PM by mid-August

THAILAND - By mid-August, Thailand is expected to have a new prime minister, officials from the Secretariat of the Cabinet and from Parliament said yesterday.

A Cabinet meeting has been scheduled today as the last meeting for the outgoing Abhisit Vejjajiva government. Among items on the agenda is the preparation for the opening of the House of Representatives, said a source from the Secretariat of the Cabinet who asked not to be named.

The Election Commission is scheduled today to endorse the first batch of successful candidates as members of Parliament. Only winning MP candidates who are clear of complaints or opposition related to the July 3 election can be endorsed. The EC has 30 days for investigation of challenged cases.

The Constitution requires the first House convention within 30 days after the election with at least 95 per cent of the total MPs attending.

"From its initial meeting, the Election Commission had informed that the endorsement of the second batch of MPs would be on July 19 and the third batch on the 26th. However, the Secretariat of the Cabinet asked the EC to approve at least 475 MPs in the second round, as July 26 would be too close to the deadline of August 1," the source said.

PM's deputy secretary-general Panitan Wattanayagorn said the Cabinet would approve the preparation in principle, but it would be for the EC to designate the date.

Cabinet secretary-general Ampon Kitti-ampon will coordinate with the EC, Panitan said.

A Parliament source, who also asked not to be named, said the EC would approve the election results and endorse at least 475 MPs by next week.

Abhisit is expected to submit documents for the royal command for the House of Representatives' opening ceremony by July 20, then the first House convention can take place in the next few days.

The MPs will vote to select a House Speaker and deputies during the first House meeting, the source said. The Speaker can call a meeting to select the prime minister in the following week.

A senior source from the EC who asked not to be named said more than 300 MPs were expected to be endorsed today.

The EC will follow the advice of its legal team in first endorsing Pheu Thai MP-elect Jatuporn Promphan, a red-shirt leader now detained in jail and whose qualification is controversial. The EC can later ask the House Speaker to file a complaint with the Constitution Court to consider his qualification.

The election has passed so it is beyond the EC's authority to consider Jatuporn's qualification, the source said.

Election Administration Office director Metha Silaphan said the difference between constituency and party-list ballots was actually 167,000, not 80,000 as previously said.

"After examination, we found 90 per cent of the difference came from advance voting, both abroad and outside constituency voting, as the ballot cards were put in envelopes. An extra ballot card was mistakenly given to a voter," he said.

Metha said errors also occurred while recording voter-turnout information. A number of 11,681 was recorded while it was actually 101,681 voters.

Of 46,939,548 eligible voters, 35,220,370 voted for party-list MPs while 35,220,537 voted for constituency MPs, Metha said.

In a separate development, Democrat deputy spokesman Boonyod Sukthinthai filed a complaint with the EC to investigate whether the Pheu Thai Party violated

election law by giving benefits to the media, as claimed in an e-mail to a former Thai Rak Thai executive. He also asked the EC to verify qualifications of Pheu Thai MP candidates including Jatuporn