Thai election panel sticks to Feb 2 date

Thai election panel sticks to Feb 2 date

THAILAND - Thailand's Feb 2 general election will go ahead, its Election Commission has said, even after anti-government protesters blocked candidates from registering in the south of the country.

The decision on Friday to proceed with the election - while not extending the Jan 1 registration deadline - could put the country in a legislative limbo because there are not enough constituencies being contested to fill 95 per cent of the 500 seats in Thailand's House of Representatives required to open a new session.

According to the commission, there are no candidates for 28 out of the 375 constituency seats available. Party list candidates will fill 125 seats based on the number of votes garnered by the contesting parties.

Meanwhile, jitters over the planned "shutdown" of Bangkok by protesters on Jan 13 continued to take their toll on the economy, as the stock market and baht continued their slide. The baht fell to 32.98 to the US dollar on Friday, its lowest in almost three years.

Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong told reporters: "It is supportive to exports but could hurt imports and the cost of energy."

CIMB bank, in a research note released on Friday, said: "We do not expect the market to rebound in the near term."

Protesters who have been on Bangkok's streets since late October are seeking to unseat caretaker Premier Yingluck Shinawatra and install a "people's council" to implement political reforms before elections are held.

They argue that a Feb 2 election will only perpetuate the power of her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed in a coup in 2006 and is thought to still wield inordinate power from Dubai, where he lives in self-exile.

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