Thai election will mark "new beginning," says premier

Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of ex-Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a 2006 coup. She is among those challenging the ruling party in an election slated for early July.</p>

Yingluck Shinawatra, sister of ex-Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a 2006 coup. She is among those challenging the ruling party in an election slated for early July.

Despite much doubt that Thailand's ruling party would risk fresh elections, it's more or less official: the nation will finally return to the polls on July 3.

Last night, the premier appeared on TV to announce that parliament has been dissolved more than six months ahead of his term's slated end date. This sets the stage for what he calls a "new beginning."

Thailand could certainly use one.

Its democratic process was jolted in 2006 by a military coup, then by court rulings that wiped out two successive political parties backed by the coup makers' target: ex-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The election will pit the ruling Democrats party, which hasn't won an election since 1992, against a party supported by Thaksin, who lives outside Thailand in self-imposed exile. Many suspect Thaksin's younger sister, Yingluck, will be appointed the latter party's leader.

As I wrote in early April:

"This is a crucial turning point for Thailand. The government can ensure a fair election free of meddling from the army or courts. Protesters of all creeds can accept the result, even if they don’t like it, and refrain from seizing government buildings or sowing urban chaos.

If all that happens, Thailand’s shaky democracy can rebuild its credibility."