Last week, Thailand elected its first female prime minister. The question is whether she'll ever take office.
She was elected rather resoundingly. In a country where the prime minister is "officially" named by the legislature, Yingluck's party won 270 seats out of a total 500 and immediately announced coalition arrangements with five other parties to bring the total up to 300.
We in the West are used to the presidential party winning a majority, or at least a substantial plurality, of the vote, but in modern Thailand NO prime minister ever went into office with an actual majority until 2005, when Yingluck's brother, Thaksin, was re-elected by a landslide.
But, of course, Thaksin was overthrown in a coup and when two of his sympathizers were elected to succeed him, the Thai power elite simply deposed them and purchased enough legislators to vote their own prime minister in.
At that point the people, wearing red shirts, took to the streets to demand the government they'd elected. More than ninety men and women, including an unarmed nurse, were killed in the military response to the riots.
Three days ago, the Election Commission, which was appointed by the same elite that overthrew Thaksin, refused to certify Yingluck's election until "complaints" were investigated. That means she's not prime minister yet. One "complaint" was about an event in which she helped a food vendor cook on a public street and then handed out food. This is being soberly interpreted as "vote buying."
There are other, potentially less risible complaints, and the Election Commission was careful not to certify the election of some of the opposition leaders, either -- if they hadn't, there probably would have been instant riots. They've said they'll certify or reject candidates in batches as they investigate the complaints, beginning as early as next week, but this delay has a lot of people on edge. There's already talk of a "judicial coup" even before Yingluck takes office.
I honestly believe there will be hell to pay if that happens.
And even if she is ultimately certified, there are those other little problems -- the succession to the throne, for one, and the continuing series, in the South, of murders committed by Islamic extremists. Despite the solidarity suggested in this photo of a scarf-wearing Yingluck with a Muslim supporter, almost 5000 Thai Buddhists have been killed by Islamists in the past few years. This month alone -- just a little more than halfway through July -- there have been eight of these murders.
And then, there's the unremitting hostility of the traditional power elite, who will ceaselessly search for ways to bring her down.
Should she eventually become prime minister, Yingluck will have her hands full.