x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

New Thai parliament starts work by electing speaker

Vote paves the way for the country¿s first female prime minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, the sister of the fugitive former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, to take power.

The Thai prime minister-in-waiting, Yingluck Shinawatra, gives a traditional greeting to members of parliament as they attend the vote for a parliamentary speaker in Bangkok yesterday. Pornchai Kittiwongsakul / AFP Photo
The Thai prime minister-in-waiting, Yingluck Shinawatra, gives a traditional greeting to members of parliament as they attend the vote for a parliamentary speaker in Bangkok yesterday. Pornchai Kittiwongsakul / AFP Photo

BANGKOK // Thailand's new parliament convened for business for the first time yesterday, electing a speaker in steps that pave the way for the country's first female prime minister to take power.

Somsak Kiatsuranond, who is a member of prime minister-in-waiting Yingluck Shinawatra's Puea Thai party, was elected unopposed to the role of house speaker, a day after the parliamentary session's opening ceremony.

Ms Yingluck, the sister of fugitive former leader Thaksin Shinawatra, is expected to be selected later this week in a parliamentary vote, which Mr Somsak said he would call tomorrow or Friday after his endorsement by the king.

Puea Thai won a convincing majority in the July 3 election and Ms Yingluck, a political novice, has formed a six-party coalition that controls three-fifths of the lower chamber's 500 seats.

Her team faces the tough challenge of bringing stability to Thailand, which has suffered a string of political crises sparked by Thaksin's overthrow in a coup in 2006.

Ahead of parliament's convening, Ms Yingluck told reporters she had decided on half of the positions in her cabinet.

"I want everything to be finalised as soon as possible so I can get down to work. There are many things that have to be done," she said.

All 500 parliamentarians have now been endorsed by election officials, including Jatuporn Prompan, a politician and member of the Red Shirt protest group who was freed on bail from prison yesterday.

Mr Jatuporn, who is awaiting trial on terrorism charges over last year's deadly Red Shirt rallies, was jailed weeks before the election after a court revoked bail because of remarks he allegedly made about the revered monarchy.

He addressed hundreds of red-clad supporters gathered outside Bangkok Remand Prison after his release.