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Court defers ruling on Thailand election date

Election Commission says holding general elections on Feb. 2 will worsen the ongoing political crisis in the country.

Last updated: 23 Jan 2014 11:59
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Anti-government protesters have vowed to disrupt elections scheduled for February 2. [AFP]

Thailand's Constitutional Court has delayed a decision on postponing the country's general election as protesters continue to demand that the government step down.

The Election Commission says the country is too volatile to hold a general election now, while the government argues that the decree to hold the election on Feb. 2 has been signed by the king and cannot be changed.

"The Constitutional Court has accepted this case and we will look at the legal issues involved. If there is enough evidence, we may hand down a decision tomorrow," Pimol Thampithakpong, court spokesman, said on Thursday.

The delay comes after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra declared late on Tuesday a 60-day state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas, hoping to prevent an escalation in anti-government protests.

Protesters have threatened to disrupt the election while the opposition Democrat Party, closely aligned with the protesters, has said it will boycott the polls.

Suthep Thaugsuban, a protest leader and a former Democrat minister, has called for a "people's council" to push through electoral and political changes.

Thais living overseas have already voted and some advance voting will take place around the country on Sunday.

Tensions continue

While the capital has been relatively calm this week, nine people have been killed in outbursts of violence since protests began in November.

On Wednesday, Kwanchai Praipana, who leads thousands of pro-government supporters in Udon Thani city, was shot and wounded by unidentified assailants in a drive-by shooting, which police said may have been a political attack.

A day before he was shot, Kwanchai had warned of a nationwide fight if the military launched a coup, as widely feared.

The attack in Udon Thani, about 450km northeast of Bangkok, was the most significant violence outside the capital and illustrates the risk that the turbulence could spread to other parts of Thailand.

The conflict pits the middle class of Bangkok and royalist establishment against Yingluck and her support base among the rural poor in the north and northeast.

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Source:
Reuters
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