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Thailand’s First Female Prime Minister?

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat Party and Yingluck Shinawatra of the Pheu Thai Party will battle for Thailand’s top political post in the July 3, 2011, General Election.

Yingluck, who is the sister of deposed leader Thaksin Shinawatra, has emerged in the past week as a popular and serious candidate who could end up as Thailand’s first female Prime Minister.

What are some online reactions to Yingluck’s candidacy? Andrew Walker, writing for the New Mandala identifies Yingluck’s strengths:

Yingluck is a much better proxy for Thaksin than Samak. That she is more presentable goes without saying…

Yingluck perfectly symbolises Thaksin’s appeal to generational change; her femininity underlines his challenge to established expressions of power; her business background echoes his CEO style; her economic success excites the aspirations that Thaksin cultivated; and, most potent of all, her surname is Shinawatra.

In political terms, Yingluck is Thaksin in a frock.

The Lost Boy links Yingluck to other female leaders in the region:

She fits the stereotype of the region's female leaders. She is from an elite background, she has strong feminine qualities, she is educated, she is a potential agent of change, people will listen to her because of her family ties and she will likely be a timid leader

But Saksith Saiyasombut isn’t sure if she can win over the undecided voters:

People who hate Thaksin won’t vote for Puea Thai anyway and voters who still think highly of him will give their vote to his sister – there’s nothing to change about that. What’s crucial now is whether she can win over the undecided voters. We’ll have to wait for the campaign trail to see if Yingluck can stand on her own. She still has enough opportunities to prove herself as a politician and not only as Thaksin’s sister.

There is an ongoing debate as to whether Yingluck would just be an inferior clone of her more famous brother. Harrison George, writing for Prachatai, discusses this issue:

He obviously plans to use Yingluck as some sort of robot that he can manipulate from a distance and so act in effect as Prime Minister without being elected.

But thinks that Thaksin’s admission about his sister being his ‘clone’ could have been misinterpreted:

Now this could mean nothing more than the fact that Thaksin’s understanding of genetics is about as flaky as his grasp of English grammar. But it also allows the interpretation that Yingluck is not some sort of remote control puppet, but merely an able learner of the Thaksin model of public administration

Whatever the case, the ‘clone’ issue has generated a lot of discussion in political circles:

Political speculators are also having a field day, suggesting possible clones among the political classes, noting that plastic surgery could be used to reduce any resemblance of a clone to the original model.

How is Yingluck as a campaigner? Here is a Twitter reaction:

@zllip: RT @terryfrd: Well, Yingluck is not a great speaker, but I guess she doesn't have to be. She's got the energy, the presence — not to mention the name

Anek Sae-lao doubts if the victory of the opposition Pheu Thai would be a victory for human rights:

He questioned if the red shirts and their sympathizers can really think of Pheu Thai (PT) as a political party that will be friendly to human rights and rule of law. I totally agree with him and have also been wondering if red shirt members are too naïve to think that the party will be the solution to all problems.

It is quite frightening to see some red shirt members believing that if PT wins the election, the party would take an all out war against the “amaat” (elite) and the “establishment”.

I doubt that this will happen. Yingluck is no left wing political activist and neither is Thaksin. Both of them are businesspersons

The Red Shirt mentioned in the quote refers to the anti-government protesters who clashed with government forces last year in Bangkok. They are seen by many people as loyal supporters of Thaksin.

Like in other countries today, Thai politicians are actively using the social media to reach out to a bigger audience. They have integrated the use of Facebook, Twitter, and pic badges in their campaign strategy. The hashtags #thaielection and #THelection are used to monitor Thai election updates on Twitter.

Both Yingluck and Abhisit have their respective twitter accounts. Tweet Yourself Thai compares the tweets of the two candidates. Jon Russell has written two posts that discuss how Yingluck and Abhisit are maximizing the Internet for their electoral campaign.

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