Bangkok, Thailand Thailand's leading parties wooed possible partners for a coalition government on Monday, a day after allies of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra came out on top in the country's first election since he was ousted in a September 2006 military coup.
The pro-Thaksin People's Power Party won just under half the seats in the 480-member lower house of parliament, delivering a powerful message that the exiled prime minister's mostly rural supporters would be happy to see him return despite allegations he was corrupt and abused power.
Not so happy to see Thaksin return would be those who deposed him - the military, Bangkok's educated middle class and the country's elite, including elements around the monarchy who felt threatened by his accumulation of power.
Speaking in Hong Kong today, Thaksin said he will "explore options" in February about a return to Thailand but will not resume his career in politics.
"I really want to go back as a normal citizen. Enough is enough for politics," Thaksin said at a press conference.
However, he said he would be willing to act as a political adviser to the People's Power Party if asked.
"If they (the PPP's leaders) want my opinion and ideas, then I will give it to them," said Thaksin.
Under an interim military-installed government that succeeded Thaksin, they changed the constitution to limit the influence of big parties and sought to demonize him as a corrupt destroyer of democracy. His return could undo their efforts and put their own positions in jeopardy.
Ahead of the vote, rumors even swirled that the military would stage a new coup if faced with the prospect of a Thaksin comeback, although the army commander vowed to abide by the election results.
What his foes failed to do, the election results showed, was win over Thaksin's followers in the rural north and poor northeast. Those supporters remained loyal in gratitude for the former leader's populist programs, including universal health care and generous village development funds implemented when he held office from 2001-2006.