Thailand's Constitutional Court ruled yesterday that last month's parliamentary elections were unconstitutional and ordered fresh polls in a bid to end a political crisis that has left the country in limbo and unable to form a new government.
The opposition Democrat Party, which had boycotted the controversial April 2 elections, promptly praised the court's ruling and pledged to take part in the upcoming polls "so the country can move forward," party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said.
A date for new elections was not immediately set.
The court's widely expected ruling came after King Bhumibol Adulyadej sternly suggested last month that the top courts find a way out of what he called the country's political "mess."
Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra called the elections three years ahead of schedule in a bid to defuse anti-government street protests and growing calls for his resignation. But public anger continued, with an opposition boycott of the elections and hundreds of legal complaints alleging that the vote was undemocratic and unconstitutional.
The court's 14 judges voted eight to six to invalidate the parliamentary elections based on a lawsuit filed by academics who accused the Election Commission of several violations, including that it acted too hastily in organizing polls, making it unfair for small parties.
"The organization of the election by the Election Commission was unconstitutional," the court spokesman Paiboon Warahapai-thoon said in a nationally televised news conference called to announce the judges' ruling.
Though the Constitution states that elections must be called within 60 days of the dissolution of parliament, the court ruled the commission's decision to call polls within 37 days "went against the intention of the Constitution," Paiboon said.
Another point of contention was the positioning of polling booths, which the court agreed had "violated the principle of confidential voting," Paiboon said.
In a separate vote, the court ruled nine to five in favor of holding new elections, he said.
Meanwhile, the commission came under mounting pressure to resign yesterday after all sides blamed it for the court ruling annulling the snap polls. The government, the opposition and the protesters who drove Thaksin from office all blamed the commission for messing up the polls.
However, Virachai Naewboonnien, one of the four commissioners, yesterday rejected calls for their resignations.