There may be a numbing sense of predictability about the protests once again dogging a Thai government, yet any long-term outcome for Thailand, positive or otherwise, is far harder to predict. Just consider the torturous predicament inherited by Abhisit Vejjajiva - Thailand's third prime minister in four months. An avowed democrat, his Democratic Party has taken power through undemocratic means following a court ruling this month to disband the ruling People Power Party, which won national elections a year ago by hitching themselves to the popularity of ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. To form a parliamentary coalition from the opposition benches, his party had to strike deals with defectors from the PPP, including old-style political godfathers considered far less virtuous than the high-minded Mr Abhisit, a squeaky-clean Etonian. Instinctively, Mr Abhisit must know that elections are the way to secure a mandate both for himself and his party. Yet, if polls were held tomorrow, his party would probably lose, just as it did last year in the first election since the military coup that toppled Thaksin in September 2006. The exiled Thaksin is a fugitive from justice, but remains hugely popular in the rural north and northeast, where the bulk of voters live. The multimillionaire telecoms tycoon's five-year rule saw him engage rural voters like no other Thai politician, showering them with cheap loans and health care while unleashing a crackdown that killed hundreds of drug dealers. Mr Abhisit has acknowledged the need for elections, yet has put fixing a slumping economy and restoring confidence as priorities. He can be expected to reach out to the rural poor when he fleshes out his government's plans early in the new year. Yesterday, delivering his inaugural address, he promised to restore normalcy to Thailand. Sadly for many Thais, normalcy has come to mean widening political division, the constant threat of a military coup, and now protest and counter-protest as pro-Thaksin 'red shirts' start to ape the tactics of anti-Thaksin 'yellow shirts'. Healing those divisions will be among the toughest tasks Mr Abhisit has taken on, particularly as any failure to hold elections will continue to pose questions about the legitimacy of his government in the minds of some. Above it all, sits an ailing but revered monarch, the 81-year-old King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and the spectre of Thaksin, who has lately reignited his ambitions from exile. The Democrats are part of the old money Bangkok establishment that fears a Thaksin close to power during any uncertainty surrounding royal succession. They do not state it publicly, but see a role for themselves in keeping Thailand 'safe' from a decades-long Thaksin dictatorship once King Bhumibol leaves the scene. This is at the core of the division now plaguing Thailand - a gaping political abyss that mean any solutions are going to be hard to find, even for a bright young leader like Mr Abhisit.