In Bangkok, Hong Kong and across the region, anyone with at least a passing interest in Thailand is scratching their heads, trying to figure out what is happening since last week's election and what the likely outcome will be. If you are confused, you are not alone. The key to working through the maze is to remind oneself that the only certainty at such typically tense political moments is uncertainty. And given the long shadow of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, those tensions are particularly acute. With that in mind, let's start with a few facts. The People Power Party won the election on December 23 with a resounding 233 seats. This result was considerably better than expected but just short of an outright majority in a 480-seat parliament. This means the PPP must forge a coalition with minor parties, and its leadership claims they already have the committed numbers to take power. Their only serious rival, the Democrat Party, with 165 seats, has said it will move to form a coalition should the PPP fail. Now consider the imponderables. The PPP is the political proxy of Thaksin, who remains in self-imposed exile shuttling between Hong Kong and Britain since being ousted in September 2006 in Thailand's first military coup in 15 years. The telecoms billionaire was banned from Thai political involvement, along with 110 lawmakers from his disbanded Thai Rak Thai party. He also faces corruption charges on his return. The ruling military and bureaucratic establishment - determined to keep him from power and branding him a corrupt dictator disloyal to the king - remains in place, for the moment at least. That determination has almost certainly increased since the PPP landslide. Few take Thaksin at his word when he says he wants to return soon to Thailand as a normal person without political ambitions. Given the tensions, it is tempting to look at Thailand's coup-plagued history and see another coup as a distinct possibility. Some look at it another way, saying a coup may not be needed. They point to extensive legal machinery that could be used to keep the Thaksin proxies from power. This week has seen the first signs of that kicking into gear. The Supreme Court - Thailand's highest court - announced yesterday that it will rule on a petition filed by Democrat candidate Chaiwat Sinsuwong. The core of Mr Chaiwat's case is that the PPP is nothing more than an illegitimate nominee for the Thai Rak Thai, a party formally dissolved by a constitutional court. He can be expected to point to the PPP's active promotion of Thaksin, including the distribution of a pro-Thaksin CD at campaign rallies. The Supreme Court will hold its first hearing on the case on January 15. Other wheels are also in motion. The independent Election Commission also has the potential to alter the outcome. This week it announced it is still investigating vote-buying allegations against winners in 77 seats - including 59 from the PPP. Should their candidates be disqualified en masse, it could dent the party's chances of forging a coalition deal. By-elections to solve any disqualifications must be held in time for parliament to open on January 22. Underpinning the tension is the sense of momentum surrounding the PPP's victory and its large support base key rural areas. Commentators on all sides have noted the people's will. Thaksin and his supporters were openly bullish as they celebrated in Hong Kong; PPP leader Samak Sundaravej swiftly expressed his certainty that he would be Thailand's next prime minister. As coalition talks and legal manoeuvres continue, those tensions look set to intensify. Privately, establishment figures fear a refuelled Thaksin juggernaut will be very hard to stop.