Thailand’s main opposition Democrat Party has announced that it will boycott February’s general election, deepening the country’s political crisis.
The party’s leader, former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, announced the boycott after a meeting on Saturday with party executives.
“The meeting of party executives and former party lawmakers resolved that the Democrat Party will not send candidates to contest in the February 2, 2014 general election,” he said in a press conference.
He said the decision was made to try to ensure political reforms are implemented.
Embattled Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who called the elections in an effort to cool tensions, has insisted the polls will go ahead regardless of the Democrat decision.
The Democrat party’s position reflects the stand taken by protesters who have taken to the streets in their thousands in recent weeks, demanding that Shinawatra step down ahead of the elections. They called for a big rall Sunday on the heels of similar protests that have drawn crowds as large as 150,000-200,000 people since October 31.
In the end, they have the same objective, which is to overthrow Yingluck's government and overthrow the democratic system.
The protesters are demanding that an appointed interim government institute reforms before any new polls.
Promphong Nopparit, a spokesman for Yingluck’s ruling Pheu Thai Party, said that the Democrats’ action was not unexpected, and that it was taken because they knew they would lose.
“It is a political game,” Promphong said. “In the end, they have the same objective, which is to overthrow Yingluck’s government and overthrow the democratic system.”
Earlier on Saturday, Yingluck formally proposed a plan for making political reforms following the election. It included having election candidates take an oath to support the creation of a reform council immediately after taking office; having the council’s representatives come from all walks of life at local and national levels; and mandating that the council finish its work within two years.
The Democrats, who are closely allied with the protest movement, also led an election boycott in 2006 that helped destabilise the government and paved the way for a military coup that ousted then- Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother.
Thailand has been wracked by sometimes violent political conflict since the coup against Thaksin, who has lived in self–imposed exile since 2008 to avoid jail time on a corruption conviction.