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Thai Election Commission Considers Postponing Snap Elections


Thailand's election commission is considering postponing snap parliamentary elections called for next month because of a lack of candidates in some districts and allegations of fraud. However, Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra wants the elections to be held as scheduled and is urging people to get out and vote.

Thailand's Election Commission Monday said it would meet for a second day Tuesday to discuss the fate of the elections after a major opposition party Sunday claimed party lists had been altered to allow several last-minute candidates to run in next month's snap elections.

The head of the Democrat Party, Abhisit Vejjajiva, said several small parties had conspired with the ruling Thai Rak Thai party, and he believes some Election Commission officials were also involved. "We believe that these are not isolated incidents but that there are many more cases," he said, "and part of the reason that we were able to get so many witnesses was because it was rather widespread."

His party Sunday gave the government of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra 24 hours to address the allegations or it would expose other misdeeds. The Democrats and two other parties are boycotting the April 2 elections, saying they cannot be fair because the commission overseeing the vote is controlled by the ruling party.

On Sunday, the opposition parties produced three individuals who said government officials had offered them money to register as opposition candidates. They alleged that documents were then altered to show they had been party members for at least 90 days, as required by law.

Thai Rak Thai officials vehemently denied the accusations and threatened to sue for defamation.

Thailand's Election Commission is considering postponing the vote after more than a third of the registered candidates were disqualified on technicalities. As a result, candidates of the governing party are running unopposed in 70 percent of the constituencies.

Mr. Thaksin called the snap elections last month in response to mass demonstrations urging him to resign. Criticism of the tycoon-turned-politician intensified after his family made nearly $2 billion in a tax-free sale of shares in the company he founded.

However, Mr. Thaksin maintains the elections are the democratic way to resolve the crisis. Mr. Thaksin said dissatisfied citizens should not use what he calls "mob rule" to change the government, and he called for people to vote on April 2 in order to determine democratically the future course of the country.

The opposition insists that Mr. Thaksin step down so that a neutral prime minister can be appointed to reform the constitution and then oversee new elections.

The author of several books on Thai politics, Chris Baker, says the election is not likely to fill all the parliamentary seats, as required by law. "They won't be able to call a parliament," he said, "and because of that, that will create a constitutional impasse. At that point, I think some new kind of solution can start."

Some fear that a prolonged confrontation could lead to violence, which both sides say they want to avoid. Thousands of farmers from the provinces have arrived in Bangkok in recent days. They are planning pro-Thaksin demonstrations around the capital to counter the ongoing anti-Thaksin rallies.

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