BANGKOK - Thailand's opposition leader Saturday refused to commit to elections mooted for July to end a deadly political crisis, instead calling for prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra to resign before new polls later in the year.
The kingdom, divided by years of political unrest, has been without a fully functioning government since December, severely hampering policy making and draining the energy of the nation's once-dynamic economy.
Launching his well-trailed proposal to ease the crisis, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva urged Yingluck and her cabinet to resign to make way for an appointed interim administration which would oversee a debate on reforms.
It would then hold a referendum on the reform proposals to drag Thailand out of its current paralysis with elections six months later, he told reporters, without directly saying whether or not his party would participate in the July poll.
"Yingluck should make the sacrifice of withdrawing from power," he said, explaining his roadmap is inspired by the fear of spiralling political violence, which has so far left at least 25 people dead and hundreds wounded.
"No side can gain 100 per cent from my plan... but every side will have their demands addressed."
Abhisit, a former prime minister, has faced criticism for his party's boycott of polls in February called by Yingluck - which were later annulled by the courts after violent protests disrupted voting.
Critics say the move further eroded Thailand's fragile democracy and accuse Abhisit of paying lip-service to elections.
On Wednesday Thailand set new elections for July 20, polls pro-government supporters hope could revive Yingluck's battered administration - although they still need to be endorsed by a royal decree.
Abhisit's proposal echoes demands for reforms before elections made by anti-government protesters who have massed on Bangkok's streets for six months in a bid to oust Yingluck and curb the influence of her billionaire family on Thai politics.
Yingluck faces two legal challenges to her premiership which could see her toppled over the coming weeks.