In nearly three years as opposition leader, Abhisit's excursions outside Bangkok or the Democrat heartlands of the south were rare and almost always met with hostility, sometimes even in the form of flying rotten vegetables.


Abhisit says he wants clean government and he denounced the 2006 coup against Thaksin, but critics say he is an opportunist who has received help from the military and the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD).

He failed to condemn the PAD, even when the demonstrators occupied Bangkok's two airports late last month, and it was his party's decision to boycott a snap election in 2006 that precipitated the constitutional crisis that eventually led to the coup against Thaksin.

His policies borrow heavily from Thaksin, in particular the commitment to continue the universal public healthcare scheme and cheap rural loans introduced during Thaksin's five years in office.

Abhisit has also vowed to push for more overseas free trade deals but at the same time reverse Thaksin's partial privatisation of some state firms.