Thailand's caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra claimed Monday night that the voters had given him a mandate to form a new government, and he will continue his post to satisfy the 16 million supporters of all the voters.
Thaksin said his Thai Rak Thai party won roughly 16 million votes, outnumbering the no-vote vote and votes for smaller parties-- which he estimated at 10 million, or 40 percent of all votes cast.
"The people have decided. Whether I stay or go, there must be reasons. And if it's good for the country, I'd immediately resign," he said during an interview by Channel 11.
"Tell me how the country would be better off without me [as prime minister]," Thaksin said. "There must be good reasons for me to stay or quit. The 16 million [who voted for Thai Rak Thai] should be told how the country will be reconciled if I step down."
"Can anyone guarantee that everyone will not fight, that the Democrat party will prepare for the next elections, that Chamlong will go back to the monastery, and that Sondhi will go back to his business? "
"If so, I will," he said.
The number of votes meant that he received more than half of the votes, or about 60 percent, he said. In a pre-election speech on March 3 in Bangkok, Thaksin vowed to step down if he did not win at least half the votes cast on Sunday.While the high number of no-vote ballots raised many eyebrows, Thaksin said it was predictable.
Meanwhile, Thaksin repeatedly called for "unity", respect for the rules of the game and cited the Bush-Gore dead heat in the 2000 US presidential race to back his argument that a nation deeply divided politically could still function.
Thaksin also floated an idea of setting up an independent committee to work on national reconciliation and suggested that it be composed of non-partisan individuals such as former supreme court presidents, former parliament presidents, former prime ministers and academics.
The committee would gather different opinions and find common grounds to bring about reconciliation.
He also reiterated his proposal for a government of national unity.
"I've stepped back to the point I can go no further. I'm happy to resign today, but give me reasons that I can give to those who voted for me," he said.
As for the anti-Thaksin protestors, he said he would take into consideration both legal and political aspects when dealing with them. "If politics is applied alone, the protest would last for another seven years," he said.
Thaksin said it was the duty of the Election Commission to solve the problem if the opening of the House was delayed because there were fewer than 500 MPs.
With so many no-votes, it was likely there would be several rounds of elections, delaying the opening of parliament and the selection of the prime minister.
The Democrat party immediately rejected the offer of a reconciliation panel.
"We no longer believe in the prime minister," Democrat spokesman Ong-art Klampaibul said. "Therefore, we are not interested in his offer."
Phibhop Dhongchai, a core leader of the People's Alliance for Democracy, said Thaksin had once again used votes to justify himself. The caretaker prime minister had asked the public what his problems were.
"We see that he has problems with ethics. He sold shares and avoided paying taxes. He didn't take care of national interest as he sold the satellite," he said.
"He is implicated in conflicts of interest and makes rules that benefit his business. He interferes in the media, in the independent agencies. And today he asks the public what his problems are," he said, reports Xinhua.