The younger sister of Thailand’s ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra said on Monday she would run as the main opposition party's candidate for premier in July's general election. Yingluck Shinawatra is seen as a stand-in for Thaksin and her candidacy is expected to further inflame election tensions.
"I am ready to fight according to the rules and I ask for the opportunity to prove myself. I ask for your trust as you used to trust my brother," she told a party meeting in Bangkok, attended by reporters. "I will utilise my femininity to work fully for our country."
If the opposition Pheu Thai Party were to win the July 3 polls, the businesswoman would become Thailand's first female prime minister. Yingluck's success would also confirm Thaksin's centrality in the kingdom's political landscape.
The 43-year-old mother of one is the youngest of the nine Shinawatra siblings and three years younger than her rival, Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva from the ruling Democrat Party.
The contest is expected to be very close. The Democrat Party, which is Thailand's oldest, draws most of its support from Bangkok and the south but has not won a general election in nearly two decades.
Meanwhile, Pheu Thai is particularly strong in the rural north and northeast, with wide support among the anti-government Red Shirts, whose mass rallies in the capital last year led to Thailand's worst political unrest in decades.
Thaksin, who was ousted by a military coup in 2006 after being accused of corruption, is barred from running for office. He lives in self-imposed exile, but remains popular among voters in the countryside.
He has been hailed by many rural and working-class Thais for his populist policies but he is loathed by much of the Bangkok-based elite, which sees him as corrupt, authoritarian and a threat to the revered monarchy.
Author: Sherpem Sherpa (AP, AFP)
Editor: Anne Thomas