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Thai Court Rules April Elections Unconstitutional, Calls for New Poll


A court in Thailand has ruled last month's parliamentary elections unconstitutional, and has called for a new vote. Both the ruling party, which won the elections, and the opposition, which boycotted the poll, have said they will participate.

The secretary-general of Thailand's Constitutional Court, Paiboon Varahapaitoon, said Monday that eight of the court's 14 judges had ruled the elections of April 2 were unconstitutional.

In addition, he says the Court ruled by a vote of nine-to-five in favor of holding new elections. He did not specify a date.

The court's decision was based on relatively minor points. The judges said not enough time was given to the candidates for preparation, and the positioning of the polling booths violated the constitutional mandate for voting to be private.

The head of the Lawyers Council of Thailand, Somchai Chomlaor, says the decision will help resolve the political confrontation that has paralyzed the government, and he predicts that the ruling Thai Rak Thai party will accept it.

"Otherwise they (Thai Rak Thai) will become the illegitimate government, because at the election on the April 2, there was no opposition contesting the election," Somchai says.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was re-elected by a landslide last year, called the snap elections amid mass demonstrations accusing his government of corruption and abuse of power, charges he denies.

However, the three main opposition parties boycotted the April vote and filed hundreds of complaints citing irregularities. Mr. Thaksin's party won 56 percent of the vote, but one-third of the voters cast abstention ballots in a strong protest against his government.

The boycott also meant that 14 seats could not be filled despite election re-runs. The constitution says parliament cannot be seated unless all seats are filled.

Two days after the vote, Mr. Thaksin announced he was taking a leave of absence, and would not be a candidate for prime minister in the new parliament formed by the April 2 vote. But the opposition said its protests would continue until he formally resigned.

Thailand's revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej two weeks ago admonished the three highest courts to resolve the stalemate.

The Election Commission now has to set a date for new elections, but the impartiality of the commission members has been called into question. Somchai of the Lawyers Council says the suitability of the commissioners should also be examined.

"If they cannot perform their job properly under the spirit of the constitution, they should resign from their duties and give the way to other persons who can provide and manage free and fair elections."

A second court, the Administrative Court, is examining dozens of charges of procedural irregularities against the Election Commission. It is due to announce its ruling next week.

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