Yingluck Shinawatra becomes Thailand's first female PM

Shinaw­atra wooed the poor of Thaila­nd who powere­d her in to office, replac­ing Abhisi­t Vejjaj­iva as the PM.

Reuters August 05, 2011

BANGKOK: After a five year wait, a Shinawatra returns to the Prime Ministerial office in Thailand. Yingluck Shinawatra won won the support of more than half of the 500 lawmakers in the Thai parliament to become Thailand’s first women PM and returns the Shinawatra family to the PM office.

In what is being described as a script from a movie, Shinawatra made a stunning leap from the boardroom to head of government in less than three months, shaking up Thai politics with a revival of the populist legacy of her exiled brother and former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

The 44-year-old businesswoman was catapulted from relative obscurity to stardom in a matter of days, and, with her good looks and down-to-earth approach, she quickly won over the poor who elected Thaksin twice and saw Yingluck as their best hope of bringing him home.

Just 48 days before the July 3 election, Thaksin's Puea Thai Party was in disarray. Thaksin was trying to organise the campaign from his villa in Dubai, unable to come home because a two-year prison sentence for abuse of power awaits him.

His decision to thrust his barely known sister into the spotlight looked baffling at first but quickly came to be seen as a masterstroke as she wooed the crowds and stole the headlines from outgoing premier Abhisit Vejjajiva.

Soon after her May 16 nomination, Puea Thai surged ahead in the opinion polls, finally winning the elections in early July.

State television channels gave her campaign unusually wide coverage, and images of a smiling Yingluck, sleeves rolled up, cooking Thai specialities, riding tractors or receiving red roses were splashed across newspaper front pages for weeks.

"It was a definitely a smart strategy. She had charisma, a fresh face and she showed her Thai side in not being aggressive and really reinforced the Thaksin brand," said Danny Richards, a London-based analyst with the Economist Intelligence Unit.


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