News / Asia

    Thai Opposition Challenges 'Unconstitutional' Election

    Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban collects donation from supporters during a march through Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 3, 2014.
    Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban collects donation from supporters during a march through Bangkok, Thailand, Feb. 3, 2014.
    Barry Newhouse
    Thailand's opposition is moving ahead with legal challenges to Sunday's election, which failed to resolve a months-long political standoff.

    The opposition Democrat Party, which boycotted the polls, asked the Constitutional Court on Tuesday to disband the ruling Pheu Thai party.

    A petition filed by the Democrats says the government tried to "grab power through unconstitutional means" by holding the early elections.

    A second submission says the voting should not have been held during the state of emergency imposed last month to deal with pre-election violence.

    Thai election authorities are still counting ballots from Sunday’s vote, but whatever the result, the election alone will not break the political deadlock that has gripped the country since November.
     
    Parliament needs 95 percent of seats to be filled in order to reach a quorum and elect a prime minister. However, protesters prevented any candidates from registering in some constituencies and blocked voting in enough others to deny the quorum. Election officials have suggested they cannot schedule by-elections to fill the empty seats until the protests end.
     
    In Bangkok, the hub of the anti-government movement, the number of protesters participating in daily rallies has decreased, but they still march at will throughout the city and occupy government ministries. Despite tough talk from the police and government, no protest leaders have been arrested.
     
    As the standoff continues, many observers believe that legal challenges lodged by the government’s opponents could break the impasse by unseating the caretaker government and politically crippling the ruling Pheu Thai party, which is backed by controversial former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
     
    Thai courts ruled against Thaksin-allied parties in 2006 and 2008, driving them from power until they won elections to return. Another court decision against a Thaksin-allied party could lead to a backlash from supporters, who are likely to view the decision as unjust.
     
    One or more of the following scenarios could come to pass in the coming weeks. 
     
    Courts invalidate the election
     
    The opposition Democrat Party has said it will challenge the legitimacy of Sunday’s election, arguing that it was an attempt to grab power through unconstitutional means. They are also challenging the government’s declared state of emergency ahead of the vote, saying it meant the election could not be held under normal circumstances.
     
    The Constitutional Court could rule against Yingluck, invalidate the election and order a new one. However, there is no guarantee that a new vote would end protests, especially if the opposition Democrat Party continues to refuse to participate in the polls.
     
    In November, the Constitutional Court ruled that an attempt by the ruling party to have the entire Senate directly elected was in fact an attempt to “overthrow” the country’s democratic system. The court is now considering pressing charges against 308 former lawmakers allegedly involved in that decision. Most of the accused are from the ruling Pheu Thai party.
     
    The Constitutional Court decisions could end up disbanding the ruling Pheu Thai party, a fate shared by previous Thaksin-backed political parties.
     
    Corruption charges cripple ruling party
     
    Government opponents accuse the ruling party of rampant corruption, and highlight a controversial rice-buying scheme as a prime example. Yingluck campaigned on the plan, which pays farmers above market rates for rice, but the IMF and other economists have said it is costing billions of dollars. In January, the National Anti-Corruption Commission said it was investigating the prime minister and more than a dozen other officials in the rice scheme. Those found guilty could be banned from politics for five years.
     
    Escalating violence sparks military intervention
     
    Thailand’s military has refused to take sides in the current standoff. Senior generals are widely believed to sympathize with royalist opponents of Pheu Thai, and the military staged a coup against a Thaksin-led government in 2006. Despite its claims of neutrality, the military’s refusal to protect government buildings from protesters has undermined the government’s authority. The army has dismissed the possibility of a coup, but if violence escalates, the military could step in.
     
    Government supporters fight back
     
    Despite the protests in Bangkok, the ruling Pheu Thai party remains popular in much of northern Thailand. The party’s supporters have largely heeded calls by their leaders to stay away from the anti-government protests in Bangkok because violent clashes could lead to military intervention. However, if the courts or the military moves against the caretaker government, party supporters have vowed to come off the sidelines and defend their political leaders.
     
    Elections held despite protests, new government takes over
     
    Prime Minister Yingluck has vowed to let the ballot box determine the country’s political future, and wants by-elections to fill the missing seats in the next six months. If authorities are able to hold polls despite ongoing protests and reach the 95 percent quorum, the government can elect a prime minister and work on consolidating power against its opponents.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: jeff from: perth australia
    February 06, 2014 2:40 AM
    Thais should let the demoncratic runs its own course. It has work in many countries and should work also in Thailand. All I see is the opposition being a bad loser at the expenses of its country economy. China has now withdraw it intended rice purchase. Tourism is protracting and business activities turning south. If the opposite has any brain, it should let the election runs its own course.

    by: hoa minh truong from: western Australia
    February 04, 2014 7:25 AM
    The hidden wave of Thai's political crisis has been starting since a young sister, she had the landslide victory on July 2011 that causes the self believing of Yin Luck. But the oppositions have kept quiet and waiting for time. November 2011, Prime Minister Ying Luck used the parliament power for amnesty her brother, the disposed prime minister Thatsin, that cause the anger of people and the oppositions have the reason for protest against the government. They always want Ying Luck resigns, but she has not gave up the power, instead, she bought the time by the announcement the election day on February 2, 2014, the peasant ( red flag) harvested the havoc, and the could join the force fight against the Oppositions.

    The Shinawatra family's conspiracy to keep the power as long as good, Ying Luck remains her top job until the election's result, but the oppositions boycott the election, then the result being problem, it will take few weeks, months or longer. If the oppositions take the fraudulent election to high court, that will be extended more time and Ying Luck has not lost her job.

    The Thai's situation is unrest, likely an war within between two rivalries of Red and yellow flag. The situation worsens, the national economy harmed. There is only the army takes another coup as they did 18 times since 1932. That means the Shinawatra family will be wiped out forever into the Thai's political arena.
    hoa minh truong (author of 3 books: the dark journey, good evening Vietnam & from laborer to author)
    In Response

    by: Thanawadee(Anna) from: Thailand & NZ
    February 04, 2014 4:56 PM
    @Nick I do understand how to come to your conclusion "If the majority take an issue with the current PM a closely monitored election should oust her with little problem" and "The whole situation stinks and it stinks like the protesters know they cannot win an election so instead they plan to undermine the will of the people for their own agenda."
    I'm not going to bore you with the whole history of Thai politics and the Shinawatra family's corruption saga. It is easier for everyone to sit and read world news without realising there are many more stories left hidden and never get reported or picked up by the international media outlets. As a reader you consume pre-selected accounts of events from (so-called) journalists. The reality is another story. If it was as easy as you mentioned, Nick, all Thai would be very delighted to just turn up and vote. Yet it's, in fact, proved to be as difficult as removing Mugabe from his presidency. Needless to say more.
    In Response

    by: Praseut from: Thailand
    February 04, 2014 11:23 AM
    Thailand didn't know how suffer of war, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam has killed each other and Thailand had too happy, now it's Thailand turn. Thank you for God.
    In Response

    by: Nick from: Toronto, On
    February 04, 2014 8:51 AM
    As someone with no horse in this race. I can understand people's anger over the pardoning of certain individuals and the anger that would certainly cause. I can understand the protests. I can understand you saying that calling an election was a stall. But February 2nd has come and passed. What I don't understand is the efforts of protesters to disrupt an election. In the absence of electoral fraud, a claim that no one seems to be leveling, there really doesn't seem an excuse for this. If the majority take an issue with the current PM a closely monitored election should oust her with little problem especially considering her detractors are already worked up and on the streets. Getting them into a polling booth should be no issue.

    The whole situation stinks and it stinks like the protesters know they cannot win an election so instead they plan to undermine the will of the people for their own agenda.

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