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Thai court nullifies Feb 2 general election

Posted on Mar 21 2014 | IANS

Bangkok, March 21 : The Thai Constitutional Court Friday annulled last month's general election, leaving the country in political limbo without a full government and further undermining a prime minister faced with impeachment over a failed rice subsidy scheme.

The court judges ruled in a 6-3 vote that the Feb 2 election was unconstitutional because voting failed to take place on the same day around the country.

Anti-government protestors had stopped voting in about a fifth of constituencies, and in 28 of them voting was not possible at all because candidates were unable to register, the Bangkok Post reported.

"The 2013 royal decree on the House of Representatives dissolution stated that the general election must be held Feb 2, 2014. But on that date, no election was held in 28 constituencies," the court said.

"Re-elections for the 28 constituencies after Feb 2 are, therefore, impossible because it would mean the elections were not held on the same date throughout the kingdom," the court added.

The anti-government protests were the latest chapter in an eight-year crisis that pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist establishment against supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by the army in 2006 and lives in exile to avoid a jail term for graft.

Over the past five months, the protestors have shut government offices and at times blocked major thoroughfares in Bangkok to try to force Yingluck out. Twenty-three people have died and hundreds have been injured in the violence.

But the focus has now shifted to the courts, in particular to the prospect of Yingluck being impeached over a rice scheme that has gone disastrously wrong, with hundreds of thousands of farmers not getting paid for grain sold to the state since October.

The opposition Democrat Party and the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) have accused the ruling Pheu Thai party of buying votes and indulging in corruption.

Chavanond Intarakomalaysut, a Democrat spokesman said the Democrats wanted reforms in the country before another general election and it would not have a problem if the parliament faced dissolution.

The court also dismissed the Election Commission's (EC) request for it to decide whether it has the authority to ask for an election re-run as the Feb 2 poll has been nullified.

"The dissolution of the House of Representatives shall be made in the form of a royal decree," the constitution states.

"The day for a new general election must be fixed for not less than 45 days but not more than 60 days as from the day the House has been dissolved and such election day must be the same throughout the kingdom," it says.

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