Thai court to rule on delaying Feb. 2 vote

AP News
Posted: Jan 23, 2014 11:10 PM

BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand's Constitutional Court was expected to begin hearing a case Friday that will determine whether the nationwide elections scheduled for Feb. 2 can be postponed.

The head of the Election Commission has argued the poll should be delayed because of the unrest that has shaken the country since protesters began late last year demanding the removal of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's administration.

Yingluck says the date, fixed by royal decree, is unchangeable and the government has no legal authority to postpone the ballot. She called the election after dissolving the lower house of Parliament in December to try to ease the crisis.

The court is expected to rule on whether the poll can be delayed and if the government or the election body has the authority to do so.

Even if the poll does go forward, however, Parliament is unlikely to achieve the quorum it requires to convene because protesters have blocked candidate registration in several provinces. That means a caretaker government would remain in place until at least some of those provinces hold elections.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban is calling for the installation of a non-elected council of "good people" to govern and implement political reforms before any ballot is held.

Thailand has struggled with political tension off and on since Yingluck's brother Thaksin Shinawatra was deposed in a 2006 army coup.

Tensions were rekindled last fall after a disastrous attempt by Yingluck's party to ram through a controversial amnesty bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return from self-imposed exile. He was sentenced in absentia to prison in 2008 for corruption. Critics allege he uses his sister as a puppet and runs the country from abroad, charges they both deny.