Asia

Thailand should call off election, says electoral commission

  • 26 December 2013
  • From the section Asia

Thailand should not hold an election in February because the risk of violence against candidates is too high, the electoral commission has said.

The commission called on the government to postpone the 2 February vote.

A police officer was killed earlier in clashes with protesters trying to stop parties registering for the poll.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called the snap election after weeks of protests that demanded an unelected "people's council" take power.

The demonstrators dismissed the election, and the official opposition has refused to field candidates.

Protesters have further rejected another offer by Ms Yingluck to form a national reform council intended to run alongside her government.

They want Ms Yingluck to step down immediately.

The BBC's Jonathan Head in Bangkok says there is a sense that there is weight behind the protesters' demands, with the head of the army also urging a postponement.

Government supporters have so far kept out of Bangkok, saying they would concentrate their efforts on winning the election.

But if the election is cancelled, they will be extremely angry, says our correspondent.

On Thursday, the protesters - some of whom were throwing stones - tried to break into the stadium where the electoral commission was registering candidates.

But police responded with tear gas, dispersing the crowd.

One police officer was killed, a nurse suffered gunshot wounds, and dozens of police and protesters were injured, some seriously.

Ms Yingluck dissolved parliament and called an election on 9 December, after more than 150,000 demonstrators took to the streets calling for her government to step down.

Riot policemen escort an anti-government protester during clashes at the Thai-Japan youth stadium in central Bangkok December 26
Protesters gathered in Bangkok to disrupt registration for February's election
An anti-government protester throws a tear gas canister towards policemen during clashes at the Thai-Japan youth stadium in central Bangkok December 26
Police fired tear gas, and one officer was killed in clashes

Last Sunday, she said the election must take place and urged protesters to express their views at the ballot box.

"If we don't hold on to the democratic system, what should we hold on to," she asked.

Her Pheu Thai Party won the last election in 2011 and has a big majority in parliament.

However, protesters say her brother - ousted former leader Thaksin Shinawatra - remains in charge.

Mr Thaksin is currently in self-imposed exile after he was overthrown in a military army coup in 2006 and convicted of corruption.

The latest crisis was sparked after the government attempted to pass an amnesty law that would have allowed Thaksin to return to Thailand.

He is still hugely popular in rural areas and in the north, and parties linked to him have won convincing majorities in every election they have contested since 2001.

But many city-dwellers bitterly oppose Mr Thaksin and have several times paralysed governments allied to him by launching massive demonstrations.

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