Thai court ruling on Feb 2 poll attracts criticism

The Constitutional Court ruled 6:3 to invalidate the February 2 election yesterday, citing the failure to hold elections at all constituencies on the same day as the reason.

In its two-paragraph written ruling distributed after noon, the court said the royal decree for the snap election was to be nullified along with the election itself as 28 constituencies were not able to hold polls on February 2 because there were no candidates.

The election, the court concluded, thus violated Paragraph 2 of Article 108 of the charter.

The petition asking the court to nullify the election was forwarded by the Ombudsman on behalf of Thammasat University lecturer Kittipong Kamolthamwong.

As a result of the ruling, the court said there was no need to consider the petition by the Election Commission (EC) on whether another Royal Decree was needed to hold by-elections in the 28 constituencies.

The minority judges were Chut Chonlavorn, Udomsak Nitimontree and Chalermpon Akeuru, court secretary-general Pimol Thampitak-pong said.

Point of contention

Independent law academic Verapat Pariyawong said the court had overruled the Constitution, as the charter allowed for elections to be staged at a later date if all the seats in the House of Representatives were not occupied.

The charter stated that if 95 per cent of all House seats were occupied, members could convene. It requires the seats to be fully occupied within 180 days.

There are 500 House of Representative constituencies.

"In my view, the Constitutional Court has ruled in a way that is against the Constitution both in terms of the content and the process," Verapat said.

"However, the court did not bring the cause of the [problems related to] the election in the 28 constituencies, the obstruction of the election, into consideration.

"That was because the court had said earlier that the PDRC [the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee] rallies were a constitutional right."

Chulalongkorn University political scientist Trakoon Meechai said it was not the duty of the Constitutional Court to point fingers at who did wrong.

He said he expected protests by people who disagreed with the ruling.

However, political parties, the government and the EC must discuss the issues including all related factors.

They must bear in mind that the solution must not bring about political confrontation, he said.