Protesters shift focus to blocking poll process

Protesters shift focus to blocking poll process

Anti-government protesters in Bangkok, determined to derail the Feb 2 snap polls, are shifting focus to the registration of individual constituency candidates, a process that begins this Saturday.

Supporters of the self-styled People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protest movement have been urged to gather at registration centres across the country to protest against the process.

Speaking to several thousands massed at the main stage of the movement in Bangkok on Monday night, its leader Suthep Thaugsuban said: "We must protest them (the elections) until the end."

Noting that the PDRC had established chapters across the country, he urged supporters to visit each registration venue to protest against the elections, which he insists will be distorted in favour of the ruling Puea Thai party by vote-buying and fraud.

On Tuesday, PDRC supporters continued their blockade of a stadium where the registration for party-list candidates began on Monday and was to continue through yesterday. Election Commission staff were prevented from entering the premises, but the commission said registration would go ahead at seven alternative venues. The protesters were set to return to their main site elsewhere yesterday evening.

Thirty-four parties, including the ruling Puea Thai party, tried to register on Monday despite the blockade, the Election Commission said. The Puea Thai was among those that succeeded.

The party list consists of candidates who would qualify for a seat in Parliament based on the total number of votes received by that party nationwide. Usually, the top name is the party's prime ministerial candidate.

For Puea Thai, it remains the current acting premier, Ms Yingluck Shinawatra, who dissolved Parliament this month under pressure from the PDRC.

The opposition Democrat Party is boycotting the elections, saying they are pointless, given the domination of the Puea Thai.

The Democrats accuse the Puea Thai of abusing its majority in Parliament and trying to whitewash the misdeeds of the premier's brother Thaksin, whom Bangkok's conservative elites see as a threat to the standing of the monarchy.

Thaksin was deposed in 2006 by the army on grounds of corruption and disrespecting the monarchy. In 2008, he went into self-exile to dodge a two-year jail term for corruption. But his proxy parties have been winning elections.

The Puea Thai, which came to power just over two years ago, is pinning its hopes on the due process of the elections. But PDRC, which is associated with the Democrat Party, insists reforms must come first and wants the polls delayed by up to a year. Analysts fear a violent campaign period.

Meanwhile, Ms Yingluck has been spending most of her time in the north-east, the party's main power base.She told reporters she would be on vacation in her hometown Chiang Mai from Dec 28 to Jan 1 and then return to work in "election mode".

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