Thai ruling party opposes election delay

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Thai anti-government protesters hold placards during a rally in Bangkok on Monday. AFP PHOTO

Thai anti-government protesters hold placards during a rally in Bangkok on Monday. AFP PHOTO

BANGKOK: Thailand’s ruling party called on Monday for controversial elections to go ahead, despite widespread disruption to advance voting by opposition protesters who besieged polling stations on Sunday and stopped hundreds of thousands from casting ballots.

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Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has faced nearly three months of mass street demonstrations demanding her elected government step down to make way for an unelected “people’s council” that would oversee reforms aimed at curbing the dominance of her billionaire family.

Ten people have been killed and hundreds injured in grenade attacks, drive-by shootings and street clashes since the protests began at the end of October.

An anti-government rally leader was shot dead in broad daylight on Sunday while giving a speech from the back of a pickup truck in a Bangkok suburb.

Yingluck is due to meet election authorities on Tuesday to discuss a possible delay to the February 2 general election, after the Constitutional Court ruled that the polls could legally be pushed back because of the civil strife.

But the head of her Puea Thai Party said on Monday he opposed a postponement and accused the Election Commission (EC) of not doing enough to ensure an orderly vote.

“The EC is authorized to hold the election and Puea Thai as a political party fielding candidates does not agree with a postponement or delay to the election,” said Jarupong Ruangsuwan.

“The EC is stubborn and wants the election to be postponed,” he said. “I think the Constitutional Court and the EC are coordinating with the protesters.”

It was unclear whether his view reflected that of the government, which said it was ready to listen to the poll body’s comments at Tuesday’s meeting.

About 440,000 people out of two million registered for advance voting were prevented o Sunday from casting their ballots, the election commission said.

Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has threatened to “close every route” to polling stations again this coming Sunday, saying the election would not be allowed to take place. AFP

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