Thai government supporters fear July poll disruption

Thai government supporters fear July poll disruption
A Thai anti-government protester blows a whistle as she rallies in Bangkok on April 23, 2014

BANGKOK - Thai government supporters welcomed on Thursday the prospect of a July election and said the Election Commission had to prevent disruption by anti-government protesters who insist that reforms are brought in before any vote.

The government and Election Commission agreed on Wednesday to hold a general election on July 20 but there are doubts an orderly vote can be held or can end a long-running political crisis and restore investor confidence.

"We are all for a July election but anything is possible," said Thanawut Wichaidit, a spokesman for the pro-government United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship. "Protesters could block the polls and the result could be nullified again."

A Feb 2 election was held after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra dissolved parliament in December in response to street protests aimed at ousting her.

But the main opposition party boycotted the polls and protesters prevented voting in 28 constituencies. A court nullified the election in March citing a law that requires voting be held on the same day across the country.

"The commission has said it will prevent a repeat of disruptions to voting and it must stick to that promise," Thanawut said.

Thailand has been gripped by political upheaval since 2006 when a military coup removed Yingluck's brother, then-premier Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thaksin has huge support from the poor rural and urban voters but faces opposition from the royalist establishment and Bangkok middle class who see the populist former telecoms tycoon as a threat to their interests.

The overriding aim of the anti-government protesters is to eliminate once and for all the influence of Thaksin, who they say is the power behind his sister's government even though he lives in exile to avoid a jail sentence handed down in 2008 for abuse of power.

Parties led by or allied to Thaksin have won every election since 2001 and the protesters want reform unelected "people's council" to oversee electoral system to end his dominance.

Yingluck has dismissed calls to step down but could be removed from office through legal cases against her set to conclude this month.

Adding to doubts about a July vote, Election Commission secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong said the government had agreed to change the date if "unexpected circumstances" arise.

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