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News Analysis: Post-election crisis could prolong political uncertainty in Thailand

English.news.cn   2014-02-14 21:16:55

by Surasak Tumcharoen

BANGKOK, Feb. 14 (Xinhua) -- The post-election crisis in Thailand could spawn a political uncertainty that could last for weeks, if not months, with everyone guessing when a new government could come into being.

Under normal circumstances, a prime minister can be named and a government formed within weeks after a nationwide parliamentary election.

But given the polarization in the country's political spectrum with Yingluck Shinawatra's caretaker government on one side and the anti-government protesters on the other side, it is almost predictable that the political impasse could stretch to a much longer time, according to political analysts here.

Both sides are not willing to compromise on their respective positions and a protracted legal battle looms, a situation that has baffled, it not exasperated, the cross-section of the Thai society.

While the caretaker government has appeared so upset about the incomplete and troubled election, the anti-government protesters headed by former Deputy Premier Suthep Thaugsuban have expressed disappointment over the failure of the powerful military to heed their persistent calls for the overthrow the lame-duck government in a coup similar to the one staged in 2006 that ousted Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, according to independent political scientist Sirot Klampaibul.

The nationwide election, held Feb. 2, was marred by street protests and pockets of violence in the capital and southern constituencies. In some areas, the protesters forcibly stopped voters from casting their votes.

According to the constitution and electoral law of the country, the post-election parliament can only open with a minimum of 95 percent of a total of 500 lawmakers, or a total of 475 lawmakers.

Given the unprecedented disruption in the electoral process, the lower house in parliament will have no more than 472 legislators, which is short of the minimum required number.

Though the Election Commission is legally given a six-month time to organize a by-election in all trouble-plagued constituencies, including those where electoral candidates had been forcefully barred from applying, top members of the polling agency maintained that they could not do so unless the caretaker government has issued a new royal decree for it.

Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said he cannot arrange any by-election without a second decree while acting Deputy Premier Pongthep Thepkanchana insisted that such a thing is not necessary because one had been earlier issued for the Feb. 2 election and that the by-election can be held under the mandate of the polling agency.

"We cannot issue a repetitive decree otherwise we might be charged of violating the constitution and encounter the risks of having our own party dissolved for that," said Pheu Thai (for Thais)Party spokesman Prompong Nopparit.

Though the Election Commission has offered a tentative schedule for the by-election, which falls on April 20 for advanced voting and on April 27 for general voting, it has also called on the Constitutional Court to judge whether or not a second decree is needed for that.

The complicated electoral process notwithstanding, Yingluck repeatedly announced she will not step down despite the continued pressure from the protesters headed by Suthep and several of his ex-Democrat Party lawmakers, who have evidently defied emergency rule with their sustained street protests in the heart of the capital.

Arrest warrants were issued by the court for Suthep and dozens of fellow protest leaders on charges of violating the emergency rule. But no arrests have been made except for just one of the protest leaders who had been detained for a week and then released through a court order following a police investigation.

Suthep and other protest leaders are still free and have continued in their daily marches.

Yingluck meanwhile said that she is legally obliged to carry on as caretaker government until a post-election cabinet is set up. " We are not doing this for our own good but purely for the sake of democratic rule," she said.

Undoubtedly, Yingluck's party has won a sweeping victory in the polls that was boycotted by the opposition Democrat Party.

"We're only a lame-duck government waiting to be replaced by a post-election one. It all depends now on the Election Commission to complete its electoral task to meet the legal requirement (on the minimum number of lawmakers to open parliament)," said Sompong Amornvivat, director of the Pheu Thai Party's electoral campaign.

A few distinguished persons, claiming to be "impartial" toward either side, suggested that the acting premier resign to give way for the designation of a "neutral" unelected prime minister, which was what Suthep has been calling since the start of their street protests.

Former Finance Minister M.R. Pridiyathorn Devakula has urged the acting premier to step down in the face of alleged fiasco surrounding her populist rice program.

But the National Anti-Corruption Commission, which is investigating the allegations of corruption in the rice program, has not yet issued its ruling on whether there was indeed an anomaly in the program and whether the Yingluck government is to be accountable for such an anomaly.

But Sirot said that under the Thai constitution, only elected lawmakers can be voted upon to become the country's prime minister after an election.

Editor: chengyang
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