>FACTBOX – Will Thai government last longer without Thaksin?

>Thaksin (middle) greets supporters after he returned from exile on 28th Feb. 2008.

By Nopporn Wong-Anan BANGKOK (Reuters) Former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra skipped bail on Monday and went into exile, alleging that political enemies who removed him in a 2006 coup were meddling in the courts to “finish off” him and his family. Reuters – Monday, August 11, 2008

By Nopporn Wong-Anan BANGKOK (Reuters) – His decision to flee rather than fight a slew of corruption charges lodged since the coup pushed the stock market up as much as 3.6 percent at one stage amid hopes the political temperature might cool after three years of turmoil.

But the turbulence is far from over, with lawsuits hanging over the ruling six-party coalition. Leaders of the street protests that have dogged Thaksin and the government for nearly three months are also vowing to fight on.

After interviews with several analysts, Reuters has compiled three possible scenarios:

PRESSURE KEPT ON GOVT., PPP AND/OR CABINET SUSPENDED

– The government continues to feel pressure from its opponents and the courts in the form of an electoral fraud charge against the ruling People Power Party (PPP), widely seen as a Thaksin proxy.

However, before any ruling — maybe as early as next month — the National Counter Corruption Commission (NCCC) decides to press ahead with an investigation into the entire cabinet for backing Cambodia’s bid to list a disputed Hindu temple as a World Heritage site.

Under the army-drafted, post-coup constitution, the cabinet is suspended from office the moment the NCCC starts its probe.

It is not clear how the power vacuum would be filled, but it would presumably have to involve elections.

Even if the cabinet survives the NCCC case, analysts say the PPP could well be disbanded by the Supreme Court for vote fraud before the end of the year, leading to another election.

With both cases looking as though they may lead to more polls, firebrand PM Samak Sundaravej is likely to roll out more populist projects in the interim to position himself well for any run-off.

WITH THAKSIN GONE, OPPONENTS BACK OFF GOVERNMENT

– With Thaksin effectively confined to the political scrap heap, his opponents in the military and royalist establishment could give the PPP a break and back off.

The courts and NCCC also take a more lenient view of the PPP and the cabinet, letting them off and allowing the shaky administration to muddle through at a time of stagnating growth and decade-high inflation.

Most analysts do not see this happening, given the depth of hatred in the establishment for Thaksin and his associates, who make up almost the entire cabinet.

PPP FALLS APART, COALITION COLLAPSES

– With Thaksin gone, various factions within the PPP vie for supremacy of a political party that has almost no ideological base.

Despite PM Samak’s attempts to impose authority, the PPP quickly splinters, leading to the collapse of the six-party coalition and another general election in which the opposition Democrat Party, the country’s oldest party, could sneak to victory.

(Editing by Ed Cropley and Paul Tait)

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