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SLUG: 2-322348 Thai Elect Upd (L)
TITLE=THAILAND ELECTIONS UPDATE (L)
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HEADLINE: Thai Opposition Party Concedes Defeat
INTRO: Thailand's main opposition party has conceded defeat, after exit polls from Sunday's elections predicted a landslide victory for Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from Bangkok the exit polls show Mr. Thaksin's party winning 399 seats in the 500-seat assembly, assuring him an unprecedented second term.
TEXT: The leader of the opposition Democrat Party, Banyat Bantadtan, congratulated Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra on his victory shortly after polls closed.
Deputy party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters that the size of the victory would allow Mr. Thaksin's party to govern without coalition partners.
/// ABHISIT ACT IN THAI, FADE ///
Mr. Abhisit says the win projected by the exit polls is about what he expected but adds he will wait to see the outcome of the official tally.
Mr. Thaksin subsequently thanked voters for their overwhelming support.
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Mr. Thaksin says he thinks he has enough votes to set up a one-party government but adds a great deal of hard work remains.
Thai voters turned out in large numbers Sunday to deliver their verdict on the populist first term of Prime Minister Thaksin and his Thai Rak Thai Party.
In the working-class district of Klong Toey in central Bangkok, driver Mongkol expressed satisfaction with Mr. Thaksin's policies.
/// MONGKOL ACT IN THAI, FADE ///
Mr. Mongkol says the government has done a lot of good for the poor.
/// OPT /// Fifty-five year-old schoolteacher Supasri, says the most important thing for her is good governance.
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"Reduce the corruption. Corruption is a major problem."
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She adds that the economy, especially job creation, is also a major priority. /// END OPT ///
But civic groups say the economic policies are unsustainable and worry about civil liberties.
Chulalongkorn University Professor Kalaya [one name] says she is worried that the Thaksin government is rolling back a decade of democratic advances in personal liberties.
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"We have a new form of authoritarianism, I think. (LAUGHS) From a military dictatorship, we now have a new form of dictatorship."
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/// OPT /// She acknowledges that most people like a strong leader, but she believes there should be a better balance between the governing and opposition parties. Nevertheless, she says this is the will of the people in free elections and those who disagree will just have to work harder in the future. /// END OPT ///
Thailand's constitution says that more than 200 votes are needed censure the prime minister, although only 100 are needed to summon cabinet ministers. Early indications show that the second Thaksin government could rule without such challenges.
Official election results are due within 30 days. (SIGNED)
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