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Thai Prime Minister Says October Elections 'Likely' To Be Delayed

  • Ron Corben

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says he expects October's scheduled elections to be delayed by at least a month to allow the king to approve the new election commission.

Mr. Thaksin spoke in Bangkok Saturday after the Senate selected new members to the commission, which had been tainted by allegations of vote rigging in April's annulled snap elections.

The new commission is now made up of senior judges as well as a deputy attorney general.

The Senate had to appoint a new body after several members of the previous commission resigned or were convicted of illegally helping Mr. Thaksin's ruling party in the April vote.

Chulalongkorn University Professor Somphob Manarangsan says the new commission is key to political reform.

"This is one of the very first steps for the further reform and restructuring of Thai politics," he said. [But] the election committee has quite some homework to do for the preparation of the next election."

Thailand has been gripped by political crisis since January, when Mr. Thaksin's family sold shares in its telecommunications company for nearly $2 billion - and legally avoided taxes.

Critics accused the prime minister of corruption and abuse of power - sparking off weeks of massive street demonstrations. Mr. Thaksin responded by calling snap elections for April 2, which were boycotted by the political opposition and have been nullified by the courts as improper.

New elections had tentatively been scheduled for October 15, with the hope Thailand would get its first sitting parliament since February.

There are several key bills pending legislative approval, including the 2007 budget bill.

The country remains engulfed in political tensions amid allegations of foiled bomb plots to kill the prime minister and a deepening divide between the opposition and supporters of Mr. Thaksin's populist policies.

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