Thai opposition refuses to commit to July election, threatens ‘final uprising’
Reuters in Bangkok
Thailand's prime minister and the country's Election Commission agreed yesterday to hold an election in July despite the opposition's reluctance to say whether it will take part.
Anti-government protesters have vowed to disrupt any election - as they did in boycotting a February poll that was later annulled - as part of a six-month campaign to oust Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
"The prime minister and the Election Commission agree on a July 20 election," Puchong Nutrawong, secretary general of the commission, said.
He said the commission would ask the government to issue a royal decree and get the king's endorsement for the vote. The cabinet, which must also sign off on an election, would likely consider the decree next week, he said.
Thailand has been in crisis since November, with sometimes violent street protests and legal challenges to Yingluck, who risks being removed by the courts next month.
A court nullified February's election because of rules that stipulate the vote must be held on the same day across the country. Voting was not held in 28 southern constituencies because candidates were stopped from registering.
Anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has shown no sign of giving in, even though the number of demonstrators has dwindled.
"We are approaching D-day … This will be our final uprising, our ultimate gathering," Suthep told supporters on Tuesday.
Offers by opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva to mediate in the crisis have met with scepticism. He has called for talks and for a political reform process to take place alongside an election.
"I will outline a way out for Thailand and put it to the public. This will take one or two days," Abhisit said yesterday.
"I will send the proposal to Yingluck and Suthep ... If the public accepts the proposal it will be our exit strategy but if it does not, each side must continue their own way."
The crisis broadly pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist establishment against the mainly poor, rural supporters of Yingluck and her brother, ousted former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who lives in self-imposed exile abroad.
Protesters accuse Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, of corruption while in office and of harbouring republican sympathies, accusations he denies.