Thai election: No sign of early ballot

Thai election: No sign of early ballot
Activists from the Student Federation of Thailand cover the Democracy Monument with a large piece of black cloth to protest against the court ruling to nullify the February 2 election.

Yesterday's ruling by the Constitutional Court that annulled the February 2 general election has answered questions about the legality of the problem-plagued poll - but it has also raised new questions about when the next election will be held and whether the political stalemate can be resolved.

Election Commission (EC) chairman Supachai Somcharoen said he expected it would be at least three more months before a new election could be held. He said the election commissioners would convene a special meeting on Monday to discuss what to do next.

The court's judges voted 6-3 to void the election on the grounds that voting was not held for the entire country on the same day, which is a violation of the Constitution.

The judges advised the EC and the government to discuss issuing a Royal Decree to call for a new election. But the court said the EC should set the election date by referring to a previous Constitutional Court ruling in 2006 that also annulled a general election in that year.

In 2006, the court ruled on May 8 that the election was unconstitutional and a new round of voting was scheduled for October 15 - more than five months later.

The caretaker government has made it clear it does not want to wait as long as five months for a new vote. Sources from the ruling Pheu Thai Party said the time frame in which an election should be held was 45 to 60 days after dissolution of the House of Representatives. That means the party wants a new election to be held by no later than May 21.

But the EC is unlikely to agree to another snap election while the political situation remains volatile.

Before the previous election on February 2, the commission suggested that the government postpone the voting in the face of worsening protests and confrontation. But the government ignored it, and the result was an incomplete election.

In the election, which was boycotted by the main opposition Democrat Party, voting did not take place in 28 constituencies where candidate registration was blocked by anti-government protesters, who also forced closure of about 10 per cent of polling stations.

With the court ruling and a possible repeat of problems seen on February 2, the EC will have a larger say than the government in deciding the next election date.

There is also great mistrust between the two major parties. The opposition accuses the government of attempting to retain the status quo - in which the ruling party has influence over the bureaucracy and local administrative agencies - that allows it to win an election.

The anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) has also threatened to disrupt the election again unless there is national reform before the poll.

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