Commission says Thai election should be delayed

Monday 27 January 2014 23.29
An official sits by an early polling station that was blockaded by protesters
An official sits by an early polling station that was blockaded by protesters

Thailand's Election Commission has said a contentious election planned for next week should be postponed for at least a month.

It warned of more bloodshed after violent clashes over the weekend.

The commission is to meet under fire Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra tomorrow to discuss the election date after a Constitutional Court ruling opened the way for a delay in the face of months of anti-government protests in the capital.

"As election officials, it is our job to make sure elections are successful, but we also need to make sure the country is peaceful enough to hold the election.

"We don't want it to be bloody," Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a Commission member, said this morning.

Interior Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan, also head of the ruling Puea Thai Party, said the government would not back down on the date.

"We have to press ahead with the Feb 2 election ... A postponement would be futile and would only give independent organisations more time to target the government," he said.

A protest leader was killed and 12 injured in a clash at an advance voting station in the Bangkok district of Bang-Na.

That brought the death toll to ten since protesters took to the streets of Bangkok in November to try to force Ms Yingluck's government out of office.

In a clear setback for Ms Yingluck, protesters blocked as many as 45 of the capital's 50 polling stations yesterday.

However, advance polls went ahead in 292 of the 375 electoral areas nationwide, the Election Commission said.

Ms Yingluck called the 2 February election in the hope of confirming her hold on power, but the protests have continued and protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister, has rejected the election outright, saying he wants sweeping national reforms before a vote.

About 2.16 million people had registered for early polling in the country out of 49 million eligible voters.

Election official Mr Somchai said even a delay of one month might not be enough to resolve the political deadlock, but waiting too long would leave the caretaker government unable to administer the country properly.

He said the commission did not agree with protesters' plans for an unelected "people's council" to take over the government.             

"This is not the democratic way of doing things ... I don't think Suthep's reforms, within the time frame he gives, are possible."          

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