Sun, Jan 26, 2014 - Page 6 News List

Thai ruling party leans away from postponing polls

AP, BANGKOK

Anti-government protesters yesterday carry a large Thai flag as they parade at a rally in Bangkok after Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled that controversial elections scheduled for next month can be delayed.

Photo: AFP

Thailand’s ruling party yesterday questioned the reasoning behind a court decision saying that it can postpone a general election set for next week, but held open the possibility that it might put off the polls if its political rivals recognize the legitimacy of a new vote.

Officials from Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s ruling Pheu Thai Party said that the Thai Constitutional Court’s ruling seemed to have no solid legal basis.

However, they hinted that the government would consider a postponement of the polls on Sunday next week if the opposition Democrat Party — which plans to boycott the polls — agrees to take part, and if anti-government demonstrators cease protests demanding that Yingluck step down before any election so an interim government can implement anti-corruption reforms.

However, neither the Democrats nor the protesters have agreed to such terms.

“This isn’t about compromise,” protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said yesterday. “The people [protesters] will never go home because what the people want is political and national reform.”

The debate came as polling stations across Thailand prepared for advance voting today, despite threats from protesters to block that.

Volunteers and election workers turned up yesterday to get instructions and training at stations that in some parts of the country are likely to see confrontation.

Problems are most likely to emerge in Bangkok, where there are 50 venues, and in the south, which is a stronghold of the opposition.

Yingluck’s government is under extreme pressure from the protesters, who have been out in force on the streets of the capital, Bangkok, for more than two months.

The protest group, calling itself the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, has occupied key intersections in the city, and tried to shut down government offices and prevent civil servants from working.

The protesters say Yingluck’s government is carrying on the practices of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, her billionaire brother who led the country from 2001 to 2006, by using the family fortune and state funds to influence voters and cement its power.

Thaksin was ousted in a military coup in 2006 after street protests accusing him of corruption and abuse of power. The coup triggered the ongoing struggle for power between Thaksin’s supporters and opponents. He fled into exile in 2008 to avoid a two-year prison sentence for a conflict of interest.

The government this week imposed a state of emergency on Bangkok and surrounding areas after a spate of protest-related violence. The measure allows the suspension of many civil liberties.

The protesters say they will ignore any measures imposed by the decree, which is valid for 60 days, and staged marches yesterday in defiance of the regulations set under the state of emergency.

Pheu Thai deputy spokesman Anusorn Iam-saard, told a news conference yesterday that several issues needed to be cleared up if the polls are to be postponed.

These included the Democrat Party agreeing to take part in any scheduled vote; that it ends the street protests; that the Democrats and the protesters accept the rescheduled election’s results; and that the Democrats and the demonstrators not resume their protests after the polls.

Pheu Thai candidate Thanin Boonsuwan said the court’s ruling did not meet the conditions set by the law or by precedent, adding that it was an opinion and did not mandate a poll postponement.

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