Thailand’s embattled government is pushing ahead with a general election on Sunday despite warnings it could end in violence and the country left without a functioning administration for six months. The decision to go ahead with the polls came at a meeting between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Election Commission officials and cast further doubt over any quick resolution to months of protests aimed at ousting the government. The demonstrations are the latest eruption in a political conflict that has gripped Thailand for eight years, broadly pitting Bangkok’s middle class and royalist establishment against the mainly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. The protesters reject the election that Yingluck’s party will almost certainly win. They want to suspend what they say is a fragile democracy commandeered by former telecoms tycoon Thaksin, whom they accuse of corruption, and eradicate the political influence of his family by altering electoral arrangements.
As part of their campaign, the protesters have been disrupting election preparations and early voting. In some constituencies, candidates have been unable to register and there might not be a quorum to open parliament and choose a government.
“The election result might not yield enough seats. It might take four to six months to convene parliament,” said Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, an Election Commission official.
The Election Commission said it would hold by-elections until all parliamentary seats are filled. That could take up to six months and leave Thailand with a government that cannot pass laws or a budget.
In particular, it means Yingluck will struggle to find the funds to pay a mounting bill for a costly rice buying scheme which won her party huge support in the rural north and northeast of Thailand, which is her political power base.