Thailand to hold more voting in April

Anti-government protesters set up camp as they occupy one of the main intersections in central Bangkok on February 5, 2014.

THAILAND'S political stalemate is set to drag on for at least two more months, after the Election Commission (EC) set the date for further voting for late April.

That means Thailand wil remain in political and administrative limbo with a government that has limited authority over budgets, projects and appointments.

"Everything will be on hold," said SCB Securities' senior executive Vikas Kawatra. "There will be a contraction in government spending, projects won't be approved, which will affect foreign investors. There will be a negative impact on consumption. All this will dent private investment."

The EC said advance voting will be held on April 20, for polling stations where it failed on Jan 26 because of anti-election protests by the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

Voting in constituencies where elections could not take place on Feb 2 will be held on April 27, Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said. This applies to 28 constituencies in the south, and a few in Bangkok affected by blockades by PDRC supporters determined to drive Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra out of office.

Said Mr Kawatra: "The problem is we don't know what the state of affairs is going to be at that point in April."

The PDRC rejects the election, saying the process is corrupted and co-opted by the ruling Puea Thai party, with Ms Yingluck's brother Thaksin pulling strings from abroad. It wants an appointed "people's council" to push through sweeping reforms before Thailand returns to the polls.

The government has other problems too. Voter turnout at the incomplete Feb 2 election nationwide was around 47.7 per cent and under 30 per cent in Bangkok alone. The government's critics see this as a stamp of disapproval, even if a boycott by the opposition Democrat Party ensures a win for the Puea Thai anyway.

But the Puea Thai is determined to stick to its guns, following the constitutionally mandated elections even as legal challenges to its legitimacy mount.

A charge of dereliction of duty against Ms Yingluck over a backfired rice purchase scheme could force her to be suspended from duty and even impeached - but the administration will cling on, senior party insiders say.

On Tuesday, Ms Yingluck denied that the government could not pay tens of thousands of farmers for rice bought from them at prices above the world market's.

Her government was not broke and will pay the farmers, she insisted. But PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban last night called for another big push this Friday and Saturday to force the Yingluck government out of office.

"This gives the government's enemies more time to bring it down. The PDRC will have to continue protesting," said Chulalongkorn University professor of political science Pitch Pongsawat. "This is going to be a long battle."

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