Thailand: Interim Prime Minister to meet election body as coup fears mount | Reuters

Thailand’s interim prime minister will meet the Election Commission on Wednesday, in the hope of fixing a date for polls that the government sees as the best way out of the country’s protracted crisis but its opponents will probably reject. Six months of anti-government protests have brought sporadic violence to the streets of Bangkok, threatened to tip the economy into recession and even raised fears of civil war. The crisis is the latest phase in nearly 10 years of hostility between the royalist establishment and Thaksin Shinawatra, a former telecommunications billionaire who won huge support among the rural and urban poor but angered the Bangkok-based elite and was deposed by the military in a 2006 coup.

Thailand: Caretaker premier vows to hold planned poll | Deutsche Welle

Thailand’s caretaker prime minister has said he will see through planned July elections. Earlier, the Constitutional Court ruled that Yingluck Shinawatra was guilty of abuse of power charges and banned her from politics. After the ruling, the cabinet announced that Deputy Prime Minister and Commerce Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongphaisan would replace Yingluck, and the caretaker government would press ahead with plans for the July 20 elections. As well as Yingluck, Thailand’s Constitutional Court also implicated nine ministers, but allowed others to retain their posts.

Thailand: Yingluck Court Ruling Could Leave Thailand’s Next Elections in Doubt | Wall Street Journal

The plot is thickening in Thailand’s political drama, with elections penciled in for July 20 now in doubt if the country’s Constitutional Court removes Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra Wednesday for allegedly overstepping her authority by removing a top civil servant. The country’s Election Commission Tuesday said it has held back from filing a draft decree on calling the elections to Cabinet, and is apparently waiting to see how the situation will unfold. The court could either remove Ms. Yingluck alone, which paves the way for one of her deputies to become prime minister. Or it could remove her entire Cabinet, leading to a political vacuum that might enable the Senate to appoint an interim prime minister more acceptable to the country’s royalist establishment, members of which have been campaigning for Ms. Yingluck’s removal on the streets of Bangkok for over six months. Either way, the timing of fresh elections will be in doubt, assuming they are held at all – and that’s something that could further enrage Ms. Yingluck’s supporters in the populist Red Shirt movement. The group’s leaders are calling for demonstrations Wednesday evening and are planning a large rally for Saturday.

Thailand: Premier Yingluck Ousted After Abuse of Power Ruling | Bloomberg

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was removed from office after the Constitutional Court ruled she abused her position by transferring a top security official, deepening the nation’s political crisis. Yingluck, 46, “violated the constitution,” Judge Udomsak Nitimontree said today in a nationally-televised ruling. She transferred the secretary-general of the National Security Council in 2011 in a process that “indicates an abuse of power,” the judge said. The nine judges in their unanimous decision invalidated Yingluck’s ministerial status, creating doubt about her caretaker government’s ability to continue until an election the Election Commission has agreed to hold July 20. The verdict risks prolonging a crisis that began with anti-government protests last October and has its roots in the removal of Yingluck’s brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in a 2006 coup.

Thailand: Prime Minister, Election Commission agree new vote in July, opposition defiant | Reuters

Thailand’s Election Commission and the prime minister agreed on Wednesday to hold a general election in July, but anti-government protesters who disrupted a vote in February said they still wanted to see electoral reforms before a new poll. The protesters have been trying to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra since November, part of a long-running crisis that broadly pits Bangkok’s middle class and royalist establishment against the mainly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. “The prime minister and the Election Commission agree on a July 20 election,” Puchong Nutrawong, secretary-general of the commission, told reporters after a meeting with Yingluck. He said the commission would ask the government to issue a royal decree and get the king’s endorsement for the vote. The cabinet, which must also sign off on an election, would probably consider the decree next week, he said.

Thailand: Fresh Thai Election No Closer Despite Multi-Party Meeting | Reuters

Thailand’s political impasse looked no closer to a solution on Tuesday despite a rare meeting of political parties and the Election Commission to discuss how and when a new vote should be held after a general election in February was declared void. About 58 parties including the ruling Puea Thai Party met in Bangkok to discuss a rerun, after months of anti-government protests that have crippled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s caretaker government and the economy. However, the main opposition Democrat Party did not attend, citing unspecified security concerns, and the parties did not settle on a date for a new election. The failure of the talks highlights the political division between the mostly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and the largely middle- and upper-class backers of the royalist establishment.

Thailand: Court could declare February election void | The Malay Mail

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.

Thailand: Voting in re-run elections peaceful as protesters regroup in central Bangkok | Australia Network News

Thailand has held elections in five provinces where voting was disrupted in last month’s poll by anti-government protesters trying to unseat Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. There were no reports of violence at Sunday’s vote, although gunfire and at least two explosions have raised tension in Bangkok before the Feb 2 polls. Election re-runs planned for April in other provinces have been suspended pending a court decision on procedures. Voting was disrupted in 18 per cent of constituencies, 69 out of 375 nationwide, the Election Commission said, affecting 18 of 77 provinces. The demonstrators, who have blocked intersections in the capital for weeks, say Prime Minister Yingluck must resign and make way for an appointed “people’s council” to overhaul a political system they say has been taken hostage by her billionaire brother and former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra.

Thailand: Post-election crisis could prolong political uncertainty in Thailand | Global Times

The post-election crisis in Thailand could spawn a political uncertainty that could last for weeks, if not months, with everyone guessing when a new government could come into being. Under normal circumstances, a prime minister can be named and a government formed within weeks after a nationwide parliamentary election. But given the polarization in the country’s political spectrum with Yingluck Shinawatra’s caretaker government on one side and the anti-government protesters on the other side, it is almost predictable that the political impasse could stretch to a much longer time, according to political analysts here. Both sides are not willing to compromise on their respective positions and a protracted legal battle looms, a situation that has baffled, it not exasperated, the cross-section of the Thai society.

Thailand: Court rejects Thailand opposition demand to annul election | Malaysia Sun

Thailand’s Constitutional Court has declined to consider a petition by the opposition to annul the February 2 vote citing insufficient grounds. Wiratana Kalayasiri, opposition Democrat Party lawyer, had argued that the poll violated the constitution for several reasons, including that it was not completed in one day. The government blamed the delay on the opposition blocking polling stations. Thailand has been in a political crisis since mass anti-government protests kicked off in November. They were sparked by a controversial amnesty bill which critics said would allow former leader Thaksin Shinawatra to return to Thailand without serving time in jail for his corruption conviction. The opposition’s legal challenge was based on the failure to hold the entire election on the same day. “This case is over,” said Kalayasiri. “But if the government does anything wrong again, we will make another complaint.”

Thailand: Amid political turmoil, Thailand’s election body takes centre stage | The Star

As Thailand tries to resolve a debilitating political stalemate, five unelected officials have been armed with the power to over-rule its government in key areas and chart a route out of the mess left by this month’s disrupted election. For three-and-a-half months, protesters, mostly from Bangkok and the south, have been seeking to overthrow Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and rid the country of the influence of her brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. At the general election on February 2, the protesters disrupted polling or blocked candidates from registering in almost 70 of the 375 voting constituencies, leaving the new House of Representatives without the required quorum of members. That means Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party government will continue on a caretaker basis, despite almost certainly winning a majority, until elections are held to fill the remaining seats.

Thailand: Voting Set for Areas Previously Blocked | Wall Street Journal

Thailand’s Election Commission said it would hold elections in April in areas where voting was disrupted by antigovernment protesters, likely delaying a new government from being formed until at least May to tackle high-stakes matters. The makeup voting will be on April 20 and April 27 in parts of the capital and more than a dozen provinces after protester blockades there prompted election officials to call off the Feb. 2 polls, Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, an election commissioner, said at a news conference on Tuesday. Thailand’s economic growth in 2014 will be affected by how long the protests go on and how long it takes to form a new government, a senior economist at the World Bank’s Bangkok office said Tuesday. The Bank of Thailand expects the country’s economy to expand 3%, down from the 4% target the bank had forecast in November.

Thailand: Gunshots, explosions rock Thai protest day ahead of polls | Reuters

Dozens of gunshots and at least two explosions raised tensions amid anti-government protests in the Thai capital on Saturday, a day ahead of a general election seen as incapable of restoring stability in the deeply polarised country. At least three people were wounded in the violence in front of a suburban shopping mall in the north of Bangkok. Gunmen among the crowds could be seen hiding their weapons before backing away from the shooting. Sporadic gunfire continued as the sun began to set. It was not immediately clear whether the demonstrators or those wounded were the government’s supporters or its opponents, some of whom are aiming to block ballotting in an election almost certain to return Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to power. The attack took place in Bangkok’s Laksi district, close to the Don Muang airport, a stronghold of Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party. Her supporters had gathered to demand Sunday’s ballot is not obstructed. Ten people have died and at least 577 have been wounded in politically related violence since late November. The protesters took to the streets in the latest round of an eight-year conflict broadly between Bangkok’s middle class, southern Thais and the royalist establishment against the mostly rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup.

Thailand: Election to go ahead despite fear of clashes, political limbo | Reuters

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.

Thailand: Election will proceed despite threats | Los Angeles Times

A controversial election in Thailand will proceed as scheduled Sunday despite threats of continued violence from antigovernment protesters and fear that the result will only deepen the country’s eight-year political crisis. Thai election officials initially called for the parliamentary elections to be postponed six months because of the unrest. But the election commission relented after meeting Tuesday with beleaguered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has pushed for the vote to proceed because she believes that it will strengthen her slipping grip on power. Protesters who have called for Yingluck to give up power disrupted advance voting that began Sunday, shutting down 19 of 50 polling stations in Bangkok and many more in the southern provinces. One prominent protest leader, Suthin Tharathin, was shot and killed near a Bangkok polling station. Another leading protester has vowed to block all voting places in the capital on election day. Underscoring the threat of violence, about 500 anti-government protesters gathered Tuesday outside a military facility, advancing toward a police barricade as election commissioners held talks with Yingluck inside. On the street nearby, at least two people were injured by gunfire, news agencies reported.

Thailand: Bangkok under state of emergency as protesters dig in | Reuters

Thailand’s capital was under a state of emergency on Wednesday after the government moved to tighten security as protesters trying to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra threatened to disrupt an election she has called for early next month. Bangkok was calm and early commuters traveled to work as normal. There were no troops on the streets, as has been the case throughout the crisis since November, and even the police presence was light. No overnight curfew was enforced. Announcing the 60-day emergency late on Tuesday, ministers said they had no plans to clear the camps that protesters have set up at seven major road junctions in the city. Rather, they said they wanted to prevent an escalation of violence after deaths and injuries caused by grenade attacks on demonstrators over the weekend.

Thailand: Will the Thailand election be postponed? | Deutsche Welle

Thailand’s Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra seems determined to proceed with an election on February 2, despite a weekend of bloody attacks on protesters in Bangkok. In two separate incidents on Friday and Sunday, one person was killed and almost 70 others were injured when hand grenades were thrown at rally sites filled with protesters. On Monday, January 20, Yingluck refused to answer questions about whether to declare a state of emergency and possibly delay the vote. Despite several setbacks, the younger sister of former PM Thaksin Shinawatra has maintained that the ballot box is the best way to resolve the country’s latest political crisis. But with the vote now less than two weeks away, the latest violence has fuelled fears that the safety of voters can’t be guaranteed.

Thailand: Protest Blasts Injure 28 Ahead of Planned Election | Bloomberg

At least 28 people were injured as two explosions rocked a protest site in Bangkok yesterday, adding to almost daily attacks as groups push to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and derail a Feb. 2 election. The afternoon blasts occurred at Victory Monument, one of seven key districts that have been blockaded by demonstrators in the capital since Jan. 13, according to the Bangkok Emergency Medical Center. Violence over the past three days has killed one and wounded 67, the center said on its website. Suthep Thaugsuban, a former opposition party lawmaker, is escalating efforts to cause chaos in the capital to destabilize Yingluck’s administration. He wants the government replaced with an unelected council that would change laws to prevent parties linked to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra returning to power, risking a backlash from some of the 15 million people who voted for Thaksin’s sister in the 2011 election.

Thailand: Premier Sticks With Feb. 2 Election Plan | Wall Street Journal

Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra held fast to her line that fresh elections on Feb. 2 are the best way of resolving the country’s political impasse Friday as mass demonstrations against her government continued for the fifth consecutive day. Speaking to reporters at a defense ministry facility in the northern edges of Bangkok, Ms. Yingluck said she is obliged to ensure the elections go ahead as planned after dissolving parliament last month, and that the country’s security forces are on standby to prevent any violence as the polls approach. “This is the democratic process,” she said. The Thai leader has come under mounting pressure to quit in recent weeks. On Jan. 13, tens of thousands of demonstrators began converging on the capital in a mass protest they call the ‘Bangkok Shutdown,’ to press her to step aside and allow an unelected council to enact a series of reforms to strengthen the country’s system of democratic checks and balances. The protesters’ leader, former deputy prime minister Suthep Thaugsuban, accuses Ms. Yingluck of acting as a proxy for her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a military coup in 2006.

Thailand: Anti-government protesters march to support Bangkok ‘shutdown’ | Reuters

Protesters trying to topple Thailand’s prime minister marched in Bangkok on Tuesday to drum up support for their plans to bring the capital to a halt next week by blockading major roads and preventing the government from functioning. Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has called an election for February 2 but the protesters, aware she would probably win on the back of support in the rural north and northeast, want her to step down and be replaced by an appointed “people’s council” to push through electoral reforms. The protesters accuse Yingluck of being a puppet of her self-exiled brother and former premier, Thaksin Shinawatra, a man they say is a corrupt crony capitalist who used taxpayers’ money to buy electoral support with costly populist giveaways.

Thailand: Thai Election Commission Seeks Talks to End Political Crisis | Bloomberg

Thailand’s Election Commission plans to meet members of the nation’s biggest political parties today to discuss ways to ease tension before a Feb. 2 vote that’s being threatened by growing anti-government protests. Groups opposed to caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra plan to surround government ministries and occupy 20 major intersections in Bangkok on Jan. 13 until she agrees to step down and allow an unelected council to reform the country’s electoral system, Suthep Thaugsuban, a former opposition lawmaker who is leading the movement, said yesterday. Yingluck’s administration has endured more than two months of street demonstrations that Suthep says are aimed at erasing her family’s corrupting political influence. Allies of Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, have won the past five elections, including two since his ouster in a 2006 coup. The baht fell for an 11th day today, the longest losing streak on record, and the benchmark stock index slumped to a 15-month low.

Thailand: Thailand protests ramp up amid election preparations | Associated Press

Protesters trying to halt preparations for elections fought running battles with police in the Thai capital on Thursday, as the country’s festering political crisis again flared into violence. Officers fired tear gas and rubber bullets toward protesters trying to force their way into a sports stadium where candidates were gathering to draw lots for their position on polling papers, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. The demonstrators, some armed with sling shots, threw rocks and attempted to break through police lines. Inside the stadium, candidates for at least 27 parties took part in the lot-drawing process, which apparently went on unaffected despite the turmoil outside the gates. Three officers were injured, said police Col. Anucha Romyanan. He urged the demonstrators to assemble peacefully and said “attempts are being made to escalate the political situation by causing violence.” It was unclear how many protesters were hurt in the clashes, which were contained to the area around the stadium. It was the first violent incident in nearly two weeks of daily protests on the streets of Bangkok.

Thailand: Despite Protesters’ Blockade, Thai Parties Register for Election | New York Times

Representatives of Thailand’s governing party slipped past a cordon of protesters Monday to register for the upcoming election, infuriating the party’s detractors, who have vowed to suspend democracy until “reforms” are carried out. In a signal that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will likely return as prime minister if the party wins another majority in the Feb. 2 elections, the governing party put her at the top of its electoral list. Ms. Yingluk has faced a month of debilitating street protests in Bangkok, and she and her brother, the billionaire tycoon Thaksin Shinawatra, are the main targets of the protesters’ ire. Her selection as the party’s leading candidate is likely to inflame antigovernment sentiment. The scene around the party registration site in Bangkok on Monday seemed a microcosm of the country’s political standoff. Ms. Yingluck’s party and other, smaller parties are eager to contest the election and put a monthlong political crisis behind them. But protesters and their allies in the Democrat Party, the main opposition party, say the country must undergo reforms, largely unspecified, before any elections are held.

Thailand: Government rejects call to delay election after clashes erupt | Reuters

Thailand’s government rejected a call from the Election Commission (EC) on Thursday to postpone a February vote after clashes between police and anti-government protesters in which a policeman was killed and nearly 100 people were hurt. The EC urged the government to delay the February 2 election until there was “mutual consent” from all sides. But such consent looks highly unlikely given the polarization of Thailand’s politics and the intensifying conflict. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s ruling Puea Thai party would likely win an election. The protesters are demanding that Yingluck steps down and political reforms be introduced before any vote, to try to neutralize the power of the billionaire Shinawatra family. The violence erupted on Thursday when protesters tried to storm a venue where a draw for election ballot numbers was being held and police fired teargas and rubber bullets to keep the rock-throwing crowd back. The policeman was killed and three were wounded by gunshots from an unknown attacker who was believed to have been overlooking the clashes from a building.

Thailand: Election commission calls for poll postponement | AFP

Thousands of anti-government protesters have marched through the Thai capital, as the country’s Election Commission recommended the upcoming election be postponed because of fears of further unrest. The demonstrators marched through Bangkok, calling on people to join a big rally that they say will paralyse the capital on Sunday. The number of protesters was well down from the huge demonstrations of the last few weeks which prompted Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to call the snap election for February.

Thailand: Thai Premier Calls for Vote, but Protests Continue | New York Times

A call for new elections by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand on Monday failed to quell anti government demonstrations, as tens of thousands of protesters massed outside her office and vowed to expel her powerful family from the country. Ms. Yingluck’s announcement that she would “let the people decide the direction of the country” set in motion the dissolution of Parliament and the official endorsement of elections by the king. A royal decree set the election for Feb. 2, more than two years before the government was expected to finish its term. Yet leaders of antigovernment demonstrations, which have left five people dead and several hundred injured over the past two weeks, vowed to press on with their quixotic campaign to rid the country of the influence of Ms. Yingluck and her brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, the billionaire tycoon and former prime minister whose policies have cemented the loyalty of voters in the most populous regions of the country.

Thailand: Election for Thailand’s capital sees defeat for Thaksin’s party |

Thailand’s main opposition party won an election for the governor of Bangkok on Sunday, dealing a surprise blow to the ruling party of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra which had hoped to win the city and cement its supremacy. Incumbent governor and Democrat Party member Sukhumbhand Paribatra beat the candidate of Thaksin’s Puea Thai Party, winning almost half the vote, the city administration said as the count neared completion. “The Democrats won because a large part of Bangkok were scared of Puea Thai holding too much power,” political analyst Kan Yuenyong at Siam Intelligence Unit, told Reuters. “In the long-term, Thailand is heading towards a system ruled by two main political parties.”