Thailand’s Constitutional Court was due to rule today on the validity of a general election held in February that was disrupted by protesters, with speculation growing it could void the vote, adding to the political turmoil in the country. The protests are 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. Now in their fifth month, the protesters 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. The court complaint was brought by a law lecturer who argues among other things that the Feb. 2 election was unconstitutional because voting did not take place in all areas on the same day.
Yingluck called the election in December to try to defuse the protests and since then has headed a caretaker government with limited powers. The violence and political paralysis has dented confidence, prompting cuts to economic growth forecasts.
Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party had been expected to win but the main opposition Democrat Party threw in its lot with the protesters and has demanded electoral changes before any vote, aimed at reducing the influence of Thaksin. Parties led by or allied to him have won every election since 2001.
The protesters retreated this month to a Bangkok park and the battleground has moved from the streets to the courts. Yingluck faces a spate of legal challenges that could bring down her government, including a charge of dereliction of duty related to a disastrous rice-buying scheme.