Thaksin ran as a populist, appealing to the average Thai's belief that the government of Chuan Leekpai was more interested in imposing harsh structural reforms to appease the international financial community than it was in easing the economic hardships of the Thai people. As a candidate, he promised to create a new banking sector that would serve small businesses, to impose a three year debt moratorium for farmers, to provide a grant of us$23,000 to every Thai village, and to institute a program of universal healthcare available to all Thais for a nominal fee.
After Thakin's election, the Thai stock market rallied briefly, with many investors buying up shares in companies controlled by Thaksin in the belief that, like many Thai politicians before him, he would work to enrich himself and his family. There was much international skepticism that Thaksin would be able to deliver on his campaign pledges without incurring huge debts, further weakening Thailand's reputation among international lenders and monetary authorities. His pledge to distribute us$23,000 to every village in the country was seen as particularly problematic in that it had the potential of tempting local officials to skim a percentage from the grants for themselves. The health care scheme was greeted with great support domestically, but it too was seen by many observers as impractical in a country like Thailand, much of which is rural and ill-served by hospitals and doctors.
After assuming office, Thaksin made some revisions to the economic liberalizations Thailand had undertaken in the early 1990s, during the peak years of its economic boom as it opened itself to international investment. One such move was the exclusion of foreign investors from participating in the initial offerings of shares from the sales of state-owned enterprises. He also added restrictions to ways foreign-owned enterprises, particularly in the retail sector, could operate in Thailand, a move meant to help struggling Thai retailers compete with foreign chains.