BANGKOK — Thailand's Constitutional Court has nullified the February 2 poll by a 6-3 vote Friday, citing a failure by the election authorities to complete the ballot as required by the constitution. While the ruling could be another setback for a government, there is pressure on the opposition to take part in the next election after boycotting the last one.
The polls were called by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to end mass anti-government protests and break a political deadlock. But the main opposition Democrat Party boycotted the polls, and anti-government protesters blocked voting in more than two dozen constituencies.
Gotham Arya, a lecturer at Mahidol University and a rights activist, says a new poll, with all parties participating, may ease some of the tensions gripping the country.
"You should have another Royal Decree and fix another day for the new round of election for the Election Commission to do it this time in a certain way that will succeed," said Gotham Arya.
The ruling could be another setback for a government already grappling with several legal cases that threaten its survival. While street protests in Bangkok have calmed down since tens of thousands of protesters blocked major thoroughfares for months, sporadic violence continues. More than 20 people have died in political violence since November.
Officials say judges and members of independent organizations have had their lives threatened. Prior to the ruling Friday, three M79 grenades were fired near a residence of one of the Constitutional Court judges. One local man was injured.
The February 2 poll is the second national election to be nullified by the courts in recent years after an April 2006 snap poll called by former leader and Ms. Yingluck's older brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was overturned. Thaksin fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid a jail term for corruption.
But Thaksin supporters in the governing Pheu Thai Party remain confident the party will win a majority in a new ballot. Smarn Lertwongrath, a senior party member, says the pressure is on the Democrat Party to participate.
“Yes, we will win again. Yes, I'm confident. The aristocrats have to force the Democrats into the election, otherwise it's still a big problem. If they boycott the election again that means they do every way, ever 101 ways to disrupt democracy for a long time," said Smarn Lertwongrath.
Prior to Friday’s court ruling, a Democrat Party spokesman said the party may boycott a new election. But analysts say a second boycott by Thailand's oldest political party would risk it being dissolved under constitutional rules.
Yingluck and the Pheu Thai Party face other legal challenges, including the prime minister's possible impeachment over a $69 billion infrastructure finance bill found to be illegal by the Constitutional Court last week. She also faces corruption charges.