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Abhisit began his political career in 1992 general elections that followed the 1991 coup, becoming a Bangkok MP for the Democrat Party. He was re-elected to the same seat in 1995 and 1996 general elections. In 2001 and 2005 elections, he returned to parliament as MP of the Democrat Party List.
He has served as Democrat Party spokesperson, Government spokesman, Deputy-Secretary to the Prime Minister for Political Affairs, Chairman of the House Education Affairs Committee, and Minister to the Prime Minister’s Office. Since February 2005, Abhisit Vejjajiva has been the Leader of the Democrat Party and the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives.
While highly critical of the corruption and cronyism in Thai politics, Abhisit's own route to power has not been as he may have opted for. As the leader of the Democrat Party since 2005, he failed to win either of the elections he contended. Instead, he was chosen by the Thai parliament to be a Prime Minister. His selection was contingent on support of the Friends of Newin Faction from the now banned PPP who changed allegiance, many of whom he had previously criticized.
Abhisit now leads a coalition government with a small majority consisting of a number of parties and interests, leading political commentators to speculate about the length of his tenure in office, many suggesting more than a year in power would be a success.
Countering accusations of inexperience, Abhisit can still boast 17 years of political practice, having become a parliamentarian at the age of 27.
As well as being young and cosmopolitan, he has gained a reputation as being above the sleaze and corruption that has dogged many other Thai politicians, while he publicly opposed the bloodless military coup that removed Thaksin from the office in 2006.
However critics have said that his policies are borrowed heavily from Thaksin and that his party's decision to boycott the snap election in 2006 led to the constitutional crisis and the coup against Thaksin.
Abhisit became Premier during a global economic crisis and faced escalating domestic political tension. Most of Abhisit's support comes from the educated middle classes and gaining support, or at least lessening the divisions between sections of Thai society is something he has been immediately faced with.
"He needs to send a clear signal of change that he is a leader who will reach out to all," said Bunranaj Smutharak, a spokesman for Abhisit's Democrat Party.
"We are confident the long turmoil over the past two years will be brought to an end by this change in government," he said. "What we set out to do is reunite the country."
Abhisit, a fluent and eloquent English speaker who earned a degree in philosophy at Oxford, knows how to push the right buttons for foreigners. But many wonder whether Abhisit has what it takes to win over the hearts and minds of his own people.
"Thailand has thrived on being an open economy for a good four to five decades. We intend to stay to that path," said Abhisit, who, for instance, faults the current government's policy to alter the Foreign Business Act at a time when Thailand needs to stay competitive.
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