Polls not likely to solve Thai crisis

Polls not likely to solve Thai crisis

BANGKOK - Thailand is slated for early elections after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved Parliament Monday, in response to massive street protests seeking to overthrow her administration.

On paper, the polls will be held on Feb 2. But there is still a chance they may not happen, say analysts.

The protesters, who call themselves the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), have consistently rejected the idea of fresh elections because Ms Yingluck's Puea Thai party would almost certainly win again.

Puea Thai is backed by Ms Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed as prime minister in a 2006 coup after mass protests similar to Monday's. He is seen as controlling the government from abroad, where he lives to avoid a jail sentence for corruption.

The PDRC wants to rid Thailand of the "Thaksin regime" and has called instead for a "people's council" to be set up to reform the country's political structure before elections are held.

Meanwhile, the opposition Democrats may boycott the polls. The party, which has not won an election since 1992, is closely aligned to the ongoing protests. All its MPs have resigned to take part in and lead the protests. Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva remained non-committal when asked by the media if the party intended to contest the election.

The absence of an opposition would delegitimise a Puea Thai electoral victory, said Chulalongkorn University political scientist Panitan Wattanayagorn.

Negotiations on power sharing are likely taking place behind the scenes, noted Associate Professor Panitan. If they fail, the PDRC might set up its people's council any way and continue sending protesters to surround ministries and cripple government services.

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