Fresh “Judicial Coup” attempt by Constitutional Court in “Delay Election” ruling

The elite controlled Constitutional Court, having thrown several salvo against Yingluck since she came to pwer a few years back, and increasing its salvo, as Thailand enters this peropd of uncertainty, yesterday, blasted away at Yingluck with another salvo, in giving the OK, to delay the Feb 2nd election.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court has ruled, yesterday, that polls scheduled for 2 February can be legally postponed, and any postponement must have the agreement of the election commission (EC) and Yingluck. The EC says polls should be delayed because of political turmoil. The government insists elections should go ahead as planned. A state of emergency is in place in Thailand as protesters call for Yingluck to step down. At least nine people have died since the wave of protests started last year.  Both the pro-government “red shirt” activists and the anti-government protesters have blamed each other for outbreaks of violence.

Protesters, who started their campaign in November, want to install an unelected “people’s council” to run the country until the political system is changed. Thai Deputy PM Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan: “Election in parallel with reform.” The EC and the main opposition party, the Democrats, have called on the government to delay the polls, saying that the current unrest makes conducting free and fair elections too difficult. The government, however, has said there was no legal basis to delay because the constitution provides that there must be an election 45-60 days after parliament is dissolved. Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party commands significant support, especially with rural voters, and is seen as likely to win the polls.

The following is from the New York Times:

Thai Court Says Delay of Elections Is Constitutional


BANGKOK — A Thai court ruled Friday that a postponement of coming elections, which protesters have worked feverishly to block, is lawful under the country’s Constitution.

The decision by the Constitutional Court was a blow to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and surprised many legal scholars, who say there are no provisions under Thai law for a delay.

Some constitutional experts described the decision as a form of judicial coup d’état because it could leave a power vacuum if elections were not held.

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Antigovernment protesters at a demonstration in Bangkok on Wednesday. A state of emergency was declared in the city Tuesday.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra of Thailand spoke to reporters on Tuesday after the declaration of a state of emergency in Bangkok.

The court’s decision heightens the complex and debilitating power struggle between Ms. Yingluck’s governing party, which is almost sure to win the elections if they proceed, and protesters who have spent the past two months on the streets of Bangkok vowing to stop them. The protesters’ goal is to purge from politics Ms. Yingluck and her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, a tycoon and former prime minister who left the country in 2008 to escape a two-year prison sentence for abuse of power.

An aide to Ms. Yingluck said on Thai television that the government would study the court’s decision. But he also seemed to leave the door open for negotiations with opposition forces, especially the Democrat Party, which is boycotting the elections.

Explaining its decision, the court said in a short statement that the Constitution “does not absolutely mandate that the election day cannot be rescheduled.”

The court listed circumstances that would justify delaying an election, including acts of nature and situations that “obstruct the general election process,” “damage the country” or cause “significant public calamity.”

Thailand’s Constitution requires that elections be held “not less than 45 days but not more than 60 days from the day the House of Representatives has been dissolved.”

The elections are scheduled for Feb. 2, a few days before the 60-day period expires.

Protesters have blocked the registration of candidates in more than two dozen districts and this week stopped the Election Commission from training election workers in Bangkok.

The protest leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, has pledged to obstruct the elections at all costs.

“The great mass of people will block it in every way,” he said Thursday night.

Advance voting begins Sunday, with about 2.2 million people registered to vote early, compared with 2.7 million in the last election in 2011.

The protest movement, which says it is fighting the dominance and corruption of Ms. Yingluck and her family, draws the bulk of its support from Bangkok and southern Thailand. The governing party, which has won every election since 2001, has the backing of voters in the north and northeast. Government supporters say that there has always been corruption in Thailand and that the protesters simply want to seize power.

A nationwide opinion poll released Friday appeared to show that protesters hold a minority view in their desire to block elections. Nearly 80 percent of respondents to the poll said they intended to vote if an election is held on Feb. 2.

In answer to a separate question, just over 28 percent said there should be “reforms before elections,” one of the main slogans of protesters, who say they want the country ruled by an unelected “people’s council” while largely unspecified changes are carried out.

The telephone survey, which was conducted by Bangkok University, polled 1,018 respondents and had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus four percentage points.

Ms. Yingluck’s government faces the wrath not only of protesters but also of hostile government agencies. The Election Commission, which requested the judgment that the Constitutional Court issued Friday, has repeatedly sought to postpone the elections. Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, one of the commissioners, has argued that the elections could lead to violence and a military coup.

The Constitutional Court has ruled against the government on several crucial decisions in recent weeks and is perceived by government supporters as highly political. In November, the court overturned a constitutional amendment to make the Senate, the upper house of Parliament, a directly elected body on the grounds that procures were not followed and that it was an attempt to “overthrow” the democratic system.

In analyzing Friday’s decision, Pornson Liengboonlertchai, a scholar at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok who specializes in constitutional law, echoed the views of other experts in saying the court appeared to be making law, rather than interpreting it.

“The power to postpone elections does not exist in any part of the Thai Constitution at all,” Mr. Pornson said on Thai television. “The court itself is trying to establish this power.”


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