Thai opposition leader calls for election delay
BANGKOK (AP) — Thailand’s opposition leader Saturday urged the government to delay the July elections and let an interim administration carry out reforms first, as part of a plan to break the country’s political stalemate.
The proposals came a few days before the Constitutional Court hears testimony in a crucial court case that could remove Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from her caretaker position. The pro-government Red Shirts, mostly poor and rural Thais, plan a major rally in Bangkok’s suburbs on May 10, sparking concerns of clashes with the anti-government demonstrators.
The Election Commission and the government on Wednesday agreed to hold a new general election on July 20 after the Constitutional Court nullified the Feb. 2 polls, which were disrupted by protests.
In his proposals, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva called on the government to delay the election while the anti-government protest group and others draft their proposed changes, which the public could accept or reject in the referendum.
Abhisit also suggested that Yingluck step down along with her Cabinet to let an ad-hoc administration, run by non-politicians and accepted by all sides, oversee reforms before the new election is called, within a timeframe of five or six months. The elected government will stay in power for only one year to implement the reforms.
“If every side accepts the plans I proposed today, within 150 to 180 days we will have an election that is free, honest, fair and acceptable from all sides,” Abhisit told a news conference, adding the plans will prevent further casualties from the conflict as well as a coup.
Thailand has been plagued by political strife and sporadic violence since a 2006 military coup ousted then-Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother, whom demonstrators accused of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for the king.
Since November, more than 20 people have been killed and hundreds wounded in political violence. Yingluck called early elections in hopes of ending the crisis, but the disruptions to the vote left her in charge of a caretaker government with limited power.
She has insisted she won’t leave office under terms that are unconstitutional but has faced mounting legal challenges. The protest group, the People’s Democratic Reform Committee, has insisted it will not accept new elections before reforms are instituted.
Bringing new efforts to break the political deadlock, Abhisit had held high-profile meetings with the election commissioner, military leaders, civil servants and politicians in recent weeks to discuss his plans.
“I’ve said on the first day that no side will get 100 percent of what they want from what I proposed, but I want to point out that all sides should get what they mainly hope for,” he said.
He said he will submit the plans to Yingluck and PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban on Tuesday. He previously vowed not to run in the general election if his proposals are accepted by all parties involved in the conflict.