Thai political parties to discuss election date today

Thai Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva (left) and Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

BANGKOK - The country appears a step closer to holding a new election after the Democrats agreed to attend a meeting today hosted by the Election Commission, along with Pheu Thai and other parties, to discuss issues surrounding the staging of the poll.

However, it is too early to assume that the political rivals will agree to the EC's proposal to hold the new election on July 20.

While Pheu Thai wants the poll sooner, the Democrats - who have never beaten Pheu Thai in a general election - said that attending the meeting at the Miracle Grand Convention Hotel in Bangkok today did not mean it had decided to take part in the poll.

Another bad sign emerged when People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) chief Suthep Thaugsuban threatened to block the new election if no national reform agenda was implemented prior to the poll.

Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthi-yakorn said 90 days would be the shortest period the EC could organise the poll properly.

Representatives from 70 parties will attend the meeting with the EC this afternoon.

Pheu Thai strategist Bhokin Bhalakula yesterday read his party's statement, highlighting its wish for there to be a new election and a public referendum - which it regards as the only way out of the political deadlock.

He said it was possible that the current political conflict would spiral towards civil strife because of a conspiracy among vested-interest groups to push the country into a political vacuum so a non-elected PM could replace caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

Bhokin said his party opposed holding an election on July 20, arguing the delay in convening the House of Representatives and passing the fiscal budget would adversely affect the country.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said the key issue his party wanted to discuss was not when the election was to be held but how it could be held peacefully without protests and disruptions. "We must discuss how to make the election a solution for the country, and not only for politicians," he said, "How to make people across the country accept the election; how to end political conflicts and implement national reform.

"An election official has said that the EC can ensure candidate registration in every constituency but he is not sure if the House can be reconvened. We should have learnt the lesson from the February 2 election."

Abhisit said the Democrats did not want violence or another military coup. "In 2006, even though the country was scheduled to hold a poll, the military staged a coup before it took place for fear of confrontation and clashes between rival camps,'' he said.

Rak Thailand Party leader Chuvit Kamolvisit said his party would not send anyone to today's meeting. "It is just drama. Even if they agree to hold an election, it cannot be completed if Suthep wants to block it.''