Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra faces rice-subsidy hearing after Senate vote
Balance of power in Thailand's Senate at stake in vote that could decide the fate of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra
Thais voted yesterday for half of the country's 150-seat Senate in a key test for Yingluck Shinawatra's troubled government.
The prime minister is due to defend herself today against negligence charges over a disastrous rice-subsidy scheme.
Anti-government protesters are in their fifth month of a campaign to force out Yingluck and set in motion political and electoral reforms before a new general election. They want impeachment charges to be brought against her over the government's financially ruinous rice scheme. A Senate dominated by anti-government politicians could hasten her exit.
Thailand's 150-seat Senate is made up of 77 elected senators. The other 73 seats are appointed and are seen as allied to the anti-Yingluck establishment.
Anti-government forces want to ensure a conservative, pro-establishment majority to influence any decision to remove Yingluck which would require the votes of three-fifths of the senators.
Yingluck is due before the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) today to defend herself against charges of dereliction of duty for her role in overseeing the botched rice scheme.
While party affiliation is prohibited in the non-partisan Senate, the majority of the 77 elected seats will be decided on the basis of endorsements from powerful, party-affiliated local institutions, particularly in rural areas, meaning that the result could deliver a pro-Yingluck majority.
Appointed senators are chosen by a committee that includes the heads of the NACC, Constitutional Court, Election Commission, State Audit Commission and a representative of the Supreme Court.
Government supporters accuse the courts of bias and claim that many judges are aligned with the conservative establishment.