BANGKOK – The government and the Election Commission (EC) have at last agreed to an election on 20 July – on a number of conditions demanded by the EC.
The decision was reached following a three-hour long meeting between Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and EC directors today.
Ms. Yingluck called a fresh election after dissolving the House last December, but the advance and actual voting on 26 January and 2 February, respectively, were later disrupted by anti-government protesters led by the People's Committee for Absolute Democracy With the King As Head of State (PCAD).
Some EC officials abandoned the attempt to organise the election at the slightest threat from anti-election demonstrators, causing a number of Bangkok poll districts and southern provinces to cancel the voting and registration for the candidates.
The Constitutional Court eventually invalidated the 2 February election result on the ground that the voting and the registration were not conducted on the same day across the kingdom. The verdict enraged many pro-government activists who accuse the EC of collaborating with anti-election agenda of the PCAD.
Up to the very last hour before today's meeting, top Election Commissioners continued to express their reluctance to arrange a new election on the ground that a future poll may spark further violent confrontation.
EC chairman Suphachai Somcharoen explained that the aim of the EC is to organise an election in a "calm and orderly" atmosphere; at least one person was killed and many more injured in the days leading up to 2 February election due to clashes between pro- and anti-election protesters.
"There must be no injury or loss in the next election," Mr. Suphachai insisted.
Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, chief of the EC's election administration department, said prior to the meeting that he would only agree to a new poll if Ms. Yingluck accepts all of his five conditions.
Among the conditions are: the government must guarantee a free and fair election; the authorities must provide public order thorough the election; and the government must refrain from abusing its power to favour its allies in the election.
Furthermore, Mr. Somchai insisted that the government must allow the EC to suspend or postpone the polls in areas where risk of violence runs high, and that the government must accept a delay as long as 30 days after the election is completed before a new parliament session can be convened.
After the meeting was adjourned, officials said Ms. Yingluck has agreed to all five demands, paving the way for the election on 20 July. A Royal Decree formally approving the election date is expected to be issued in the next few weeks.
The date was chosen among three other dates offered by the EC, 17 August and 14 September, officials added.
The poll agreement followed a week of "lobby tour" engaged by Democrat Party chairman Abhisit Vejjajiva, who presented himself as a "mediator" and called for all sides to participate in a dialogue to solve Thailand's ongoing crisis.
Mr. Abhisit also suggested that an election be held in order to form a transitional government which will embark on series of reforms for a year, a clear deviation from his fellow former party member and current leader of the PCAD, Suthep Thaugsuban. Mr. Suthep has insisted that the reforms must be completed before any election can be held.
However, it is not clear whether Mr. Abhisit's party will boycott the next election as it has done in the previous poll.
Anuthin Charnweerakul, chairman of Bhum Jai Thai Party, said today he accepted Mr. Abhisit's proposals. He claimed that he also told Mr. Abhisit he believes the crisis will likely come to an end if all parties agree to the election.
"Mr. Abhisit just laughed," Mr. Anuthin said, "He didn't say anything further."
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