Thailand: Prime Minister calls for election, opposition to keep up the fight despite martial law | Deutsche Welle

Caretaker Prime Minister Niwattumrong Boonsongpaisan told reporters in Bangkok on Tuesday that his government had written to Thailand’s electoral commission to propose that a general election be held on August 3. He also said he hoped to “submit a royal decree” for the king’s endorsement and that his government would “engage in reforms before the election,” without providing any details. The army announced in the early hours of Tuesday that it was imposing martial law, but also denied that this amounted to a military coup. In a televised statement, the head of the army, General Prayuth Chan-ocha said the move was designed to head off a possible new violent confrontation between supporters of the opposition and the government. “There are some groups with bad intentions to create unrest, and threatening to use weapons on the people,” he said. “I’m asking all those activist groups to stop all activities and cooperate with us in seeking a way out of this crisis,” he added. Earlier, the prime minister had said he supported the army’s decision to impose martial law in an effort to restore order.

Thailand: Meeting to set Thailand election date delayed | Al Jazeera

A meeting between Thailand’s interim prime minister and the Election Commission to fix a date for polls has been postponed due to security concern over the venue for the discussions. “The government has asked to delay the meeting due to security concerns over the venue location,” Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn told reporters on Wednesday. “We will meet with the government tomorrow at a different venue.” Somchai did not elaborate but the talks were planned at a government complex in north Bangkok near an anti-government protest site occupied by demonstrators. Government spokesmen were not available for comment. Fixing the date for the polls is the latest round in a six-month political crisis punctuated with sporadic violence in the streets of Bangkok, leaving 25 people dead and threatening to tip the economy into recession, even raising fears of civil war. While the government sees the polls as the best way out of the country’s protracted crisis, the option has been met with staunch rejection by opponents. Protesters, who have set up base inside a wing of the largely abandoned government headquarters, are holding a news conferences for the international media from there, in a sign of defiance to the wounded administration, the AFP news agency reported.

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: Election body frees some state funds to pay rice farmers | The Star

Thailand’s Election Commission gave the government approval on Tuesday to use a small sum from the central budget, 712 million baht ($22 million), to pay rice farmers who have been waiting months for payment from a state buying programme. The money will go a little way towards appeasing farmers protesting in Bangkok and their home provinces, but it is only a fraction of the 130 billion baht the government is estimated to owe nearly a million growers. “The Election Commission has approved a 712 million baht fund to help farmers, as requested by the government,” Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, an election official, said in a message posted on his Facebook page. The government is now looking for additional funds.

Thailand: Caretaker Government Beseiged | Establishment Post

The caretaker government of Thailand Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra continues to maintain its fragile grip on power two weeks after a general election failed to yield sufficient parliamentarians to enable the formation of a new government in Southeast Asia’s second largest economy. The People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), the Network of Students and People for Reform of Thailand (NSPRT) and the Dhamma Army continue to protest daily in the streets of the capital, Bangkok.

Thailand: Prime Minister’s speech on rice scheme breach of election law, petitioners tell EC | Bangkok Post

Representatives of two organisations on Thursday filed separate petitions with the Election Commission accusing caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of violating the constitution and election law by making a television address on the government’s rice-pledging scheme on Feb 18. The first petition was filed by Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Constitution Protection Association. The petition stated that Ms Yingluck’s speech broadcast by Television Pool of Thailand on Feb 18 was intended to promote the government and Pheu Thai Party rice-pledging programme. Since Ms Yingluck is the caretaker prime minister, her television address had violated Section 181 of the constitution because she, as a state official, is required to be neutral, it said.

Thailand: A country without a government | Deutsche Welle

Since the February 2 elections, Thailand’s interim premier has lacked the authority to rule the Southeast Asian country. Four people have recently died in riots. The government is running out of options. Government buildings in Thailand’s capital Bangkok lie abandoned. For months, they have been besieged by opposition protestors who have forced the government to deal with the day-to-day operations at other facilities. Although the government of interim Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has exercised utmost restraint so far, it changed its strategy last Friday, February 14, when it ordered riot police to move against opposition barricades and demonstrators in an attempt to clear the roads leading to ministries and other administrative buildings.

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: Court Rejects Opposition Bid to Throw Out Elections | Wall Street Journal

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s government won a key victory Wednesday in the uphill struggle to form a new administration when the Constitutional Court rejected a bid by the opposition to annul the Feb. 2 election. The ruling clears the way to hold new polls in districts that were unable to vote because of disruption by opposition boycotts and protests. The independent Election Commission has set makeup voting to be held on April 20 and April 27 in those districts. However, the commission has yet to seek a way to hold voting for 28 electoral districts that haven’t even been able to even register candidates because of opposition protests—the scenario that has left the country short of the 95% threshold of the total 500 seats required to seat a new Parliament. The opposition Democrat Party’s application to the court had maintained, among other things, that the election poll wasn’t constitutional because voting wasn’t conducted nationwide on the same day. The chief of the Democrat Party’s legal team, Wiratana Kalayasri, said that he “respects the court’s opinion” but said that he would petition the court again “should the government make any more mistakes.”

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: No grand bargain amid Thailand political crisis | BBC

The 2 February general election passed without serious violence; most of the valid votes cast were almost certainly for the governing Pheu Thai party. That was the good news for the government. The bad news was that the election was sufficiently disrupted to end with a lower-than-usual turnout, and millions of voters blocked from voting by the anti-government PDRC movement. These elections will have to be run again to fill the minimum of 95% of seats in parliament required by the constitution before a new government can be formed. That includes polling stations where advanced voting was obstructed on 26 January, and the 28 constituencies where protesters blocked any candidates from registering. The re-runs could take many weeks, and will surely be obstructed again. It is a finishing line Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s party is battling to cross, with her opponents determined to stop her; a war of attrition being waged on several fronts.

Thailand: Opposition Seeks to Nullify Weekend Elections | Wall Street Journal

Thailand’s embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra on Tuesday confronted a legal challenge to nullify weekend elections, while a scrapped rice deal dealt a blow to her effort to maintain support from farmers. The opposition Democrat Party’s legal team filed a petition to ask Thailand’s Constitutional Court to nullify Sunday’s election, arguing the poll violated the country’s constitution because it wasn’t completed in one day, and the partial results could influence decisions of voters who would vote late. General elections on Sunday were disrupted in 11% of the electoral districts—mostly in Bangkok and southern Thailand—by street protesters who vowed to remove Ms. Yingluck from office and suspend the election that her party was expected to win. The Election Commission said it would withhold results until all electoral districts that were prevented from voting on Sunday have done so. The chief of the opposition’s legal team, Wiratana Kalayasiri, said the ruling Pheu Thai Party and some ministers have already disclosed publicly how many parliament seats they are likely to get, and that could influence voters. Mr. Wiratana, whose party boycotted the poll, also asked the court to dissolve Ms. Yingluck’s Pheu Thai and ban its executives from politics.

Thailand: After The Thai Elections: Protests And Uncertainty Linger | Forbes

Despite the efforts of the anti-government, anti-election protesters calling themselves the People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), at least in English, parliamentary elections did proceed in Thailand this past Sunday. Not always smoothly, voting was carried out in almost 90% of voting districts. The bad news is that 516 polling stations did not open, usually because protesters blocked the delivery of ballots. And last month, some Southern candidates were prevented from even registering to run. As a result, there will soon be formal legal challenges  regarding the election’s validity A February 23 election  is already scheduled for the 440,000 voters that were blocked by protesters from early voting January 26. Meanwhile,  government paralysis and motley protests continue and unpaid rice farmers are creating their own protest movement.

Thailand: Limbo looms for Thailand after protest-hit polls | AFP

Thailand’s protest-plagued elections herald a political stalemate that risks unleashing deepening turmoil and potential judicial intervention in the polarised kingdom, experts say. Voting went ahead largely peacefully despite fears of fresh violence following pre-poll bloodshed sparked by opposition rallies aimed at preventing the re-election of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. But millions were denied the opportunity to cast ballots, with protest blockades causing the closure of some 10 percent of polling stations in an election boycotted by the main opposition party. Facing possible vote reruns in nearly a fifth of constituencies, election officials have dampened expectations of a quick result. That has raised the spectre of weeks of uncertainty in a country where military coups and court interventions have a history of reshaping the political landscape.

Thailand: Protesters Disrupt Thai Voting, Forcing Additional Elections | New York Times

Protesters seeking to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra disrupted Thailand’s general election on Sunday in what appeared to be a prelude to more political upheaval. The opposition forces, who represent a minority of Thais and are seeking to replace the country’s elected government with an appointed council of technocrats, said they would challenge the election results in court while continuing to hold street demonstrations in Bangkok, the capital. Protesters stopped the distribution of ballot boxes on Sunday and pressed election officials to call off voting in a number of districts in Bangkok and in most of southern Thailand, the stronghold of the protest movement. Although no violence was reported during voting hours, a battle in the capital on Saturday between would-be voters and gunmen allied with the protesters left at least seven people wounded and might have deterred voters the next day.

Thailand: Protesters block voting in chaotic election | Digital Journal

Opposition protesters prevented voting at thousands of polling stations in Thailand on Sunday, triggering angry scenes in the capital over an election that plunged the strife-racked kingdom into political limbo. Despite weeks of mass street demonstrations aimed at forcing her from office, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra was widely expected to extend her billionaire family’s decade-long winning streak at the ballot box. But the disruption to voting means that the results are not expected for weeks at least, and there will not be enough MPs to convene parliament and appoint a government until new elections are held in the problem areas. An angry crowd gathered outside one voting centre in the Bangkok district of Din Daeng, holding their ID cards in the air and chanting “Vote! Vote!” before storming inside.

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 underway amid continuing turmoil | The Washington Post

Thailand’s tense national election got underway Sunday with protesters forcing the closure of several polling stations in the capital amid fears of more bloodshed a day after gun battles in Bangkok left seven people wounded. The extent of disruptions was not immediately clear when polls opened nationwide. But there were early indications that several hundred polling stations in Bangkok and southern Thailand, an opposition stronghold, could not open because protesters had blocked the delivery of ballots or stopped voters from entering. The outcome will almost certainly be inconclusive. Because protesters blocked candidate registration in some districts, parliament will not have enough members to convene. That means beleaguered Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will be unable to form a government or even pass a budget, and Thailand will be stuck in political limbo for months as by-elections are run in constituencies that were unable to vote.

Thailand: Elections in Thailand: The show must go on | The Economist

In front of the Royal Thai Army Club the thuggish rump of a failed people’s revolution gathered to collect their reward. They were to hear the announcement of a temporary interruption of Thai democracy, so that an appointed council of “good men”, as dreamed up by their leader Suthep Thaugsuban, could save the country. Mr Suthep, a former deputy prime minister with the opposition Democrat party, was to be disappointed. There was already a stink of testosterone and aggression in the air. Young men, new veterans of a three-month-long protest against the government, were perched on lorries. They threatened by megaphone to storm the club and rid Thailand of the influence of the “Thaksin regime”, meaning Yingluck Shinawatra, the prime minister (pictured above); as well as her brother, the former prime minister, Thaksin, whom they see as pulling the strings from his refuge in Dubai; and everyone close to them. The protesters are calling their own movement “The People’s Committee for Absolute Democracy with the King as Head of State”. Here at the army club, miles away from the shopping malls and offices in the heart of Bangkok, Mr Suthep’s insurrection has to make do without the benefit of its more well-heeled supporters, the ones who post their revolutionary slogans on the walls of Facebook.

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.