Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled that an election scheduled for Feb. 2 can be delayed and that both Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the Election Commission have the power to set a new date. Judges unanimously voted that the timing of the ballot can be changed, and a majority ruled that Yingluck and the election body have the power and responsibility to set a new date, the court said in a statement yesterday. The court on Jan. 23 had accepted a petition from the Election Commission asking it to determine who had the power to postpone the vote. “If holding the election as scheduled will create serious damage to the country and the people, the Election Commission must inform the prime minister and cabinet to consider issuing a royal decree to set a new election date,” the court said. Yingluck and Election Commission Chairman Supachai Somcharoen have a responsibility to act, it said.
The government imposed a state of emergency in Bangkok Jan. 22 after an escalation of the violence that has killed nine people and wounded 557 since protests began in October. Suthep Thaugsuban, an opposition politician leading the rallies, has vowed to continue blockades of major Bangkok intersections that began Jan. 13 until Yingluck resigns.
The Election Commission has urged the government to defer the vote until May, saying the political environment is too tense to proceed next month. Candidates in some southern provinces were unable to register for the poll because of a blockade by protesters, which means parliament won’t achieve the quorum needed even if the election goes ahead.