Poll says Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party has commanding lead

BANGKOK, Reuters

Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) Party of telecoms tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra retains an overwhelming lead over its nearest rival, the Democrat Party, two weeks before a general election, according to an opinion poll released on Saturday.

The nationwide poll led by ABAC University of Bangkok showed that controversy over Thaksin, who is facing an investigation of his past transfers of assets, may result in his party winning only slightly fewer seats in parliament.

The poll indicated that Thai Rak Thai would likely win 205 seats in the 500-member lower House of Representatives against 118 seats for the Democrats, which is led by Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai.

It said out of 400 seats in the lower house to be decided through direct electoral votes, Thai Rak Thai would gain 169 seats while the Democrats would secure 89 in the Jan. 6 election.

The poll was conducted between Nov. 1 and Dec. 22 through random quota sampling of 101,084 people nationwide.

ABAC University in Bangkok led the survey in affiliation with other regional universities, state-owned Mass Communications Authority of Thailand, Daily News newspaper and other educational institutions.

The ABAC poll said it allowed a five percent error margin for its projections. It said actual election results could also be influenced substantially by more than a third of eligible voters in the survey who had still not decided which party they would choose.

The poll said the Democrats would probably beat Thai Rak Thai only in their traditional stronghold in southern Thailand where they were projected to win 38 seats against five seats for Thai Rak Thai. It said that in Bangkok, the Democrats would likely trail Thai Rak Thai by two seats, 16 to 18.

Thaksin, 51, is being investigated by the National Counter-Corruption Commission for failing to declare share transactions and stakes in 17 companies during the mid-’90s.

If indicted by the NCCC and found guilty by Thailand’s Constitutional Court, Thaksin could be banned from politics for five years.

The Thai Rak Thai leader has denied any wrongdoing and said any inaccuracies in his asset declarations were the result of an oversight. The NCCC is due to vote by next Thursday on whether to indict Thaksin for failing to declare the assets.