Feb 2 polls can be delayed, rules Thai constitutional court, but it must be a joint decision
Published on Jan 24, 2014 6:08 PM
Thailand's Feb 2 election can be postponed, its Constitutional Court ruled on Friday, as protesters continued to pressure the caretaker government to suspend the polls and make way for a "people's council".
The ruling was announced after weeks of wrangling between the Election Commission (EC) - which wants to postpone the polls - and the caretaker government of Ms Yingluck Shinawatra, which insists that neither it nor the commission had the authority to postpone elections.
On Friday, the charter court said that the prime minister and the EC have joint authority to postpone the election and advised both parties to discuss the matter.
Ms Yingluck's Puea Thai party is expected to win a fresh mandate in the polls on the back of its strong support from Thailand's rural masses.
Protesters - who are broadly supported by the elite, urban middle-class, as well as opposition Democrats who are boycotting the polls - have spent the past few weeks trying to sabotage the election.
Protester blockades of election registration venues in southern Thailand, a Democrat stronghold, have created 28 vacancies. As 95 per cent of the seats in the 500-member House of Representatives needs to be filled before it can open a new session, this effectively stops a government from being formed immediately after the polls.
A blockade of key intersections in Bangkok, as well as increasing violence against protesters, prompted the government to declare a state of emergency in the capital and surrounding districts this week.
The decree had no effect on protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban who vowed on Thursday night: "We shall block every road to prevent any elections from taking place!"
The former Democrat legislator, like others in this movement, argue that vote-buying is responsible for Puea Thai's electoral dominance and wants to political reforms to be enacted before elections are called.
The election sabotage has spawned growing calls from Thais nationwide to respect voting rights, and they are making their presence felt through mass candle-lighting ceremonies.
A Bangkok University poll released on Friday, meanwhile, found that 80 per cent of respondents intended to vote if the election was held on Feb 2.