King urges fair poll
Thaksin calls for reconciliation on all sides, says he will ask international monitoring organisation PollWatch to supervise October 15 voting
His Majesty the King has called for a clean and fair election on October 15, in the hope that peace can be restored to the country.
The royal wish was disclosed in a note attached to the decree scheduling the general election, which His Majesty signed on Thursday, the same day he underwent a successful spine operation at Siriraj Hospital.
The official confirmation has cleared the air of much of the unknowns that ensued after the Constitution Court on May 8 voided the April 2 snap election and forced the country into a prolonged political vacuum.
Government spokesman Surapong Suebwonglee yesterday disclosed the royal message to caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The King's attaching a personal letter to a royal decree is unprecedented, coming at a time when democracy is reeling from election boycotts and legal and constitutional challenges.
Cabinet secretary-general Rongpol Charoenphanthu said the Cabinet Secretariat had forwarded the decree to the Royal Household on May 30. The decree was published in yesterday's Royal Gazette and will take effect on August 24, he said.
The latest political twist is widely seen as a big boost to the Thai Rak Thai Party, which has been fighting hard to hold another election.
Thaksin, who dissolved the House on February 24, said it was time that all sides reconciled their differences for the good of the country and to demonstrate loyalty to the monarch. The government is ready to talk reconciliation with all camps, he said.
All political parties have the duty to field MP candidates in the next election, he said.
However, a big question mark hangs over the status of the three remaining members of the Election Commission. On Tuesday the Criminal Court will rule on the fate of the three commissioners, who were charged with malfeasance in a lawsuit filed by Thavorn Senniem, an executive of the Democrat Party.
The Supreme Administrative Court, Supreme Court and Constitution Court have been urging the three commissioners to step down in a show of responsibility for the April 2 election, which was ruled unconstitutional.
But Thaksin insisted that the Supreme Court should nominate two candidates to fill the vacancies on the EC.
Public pressure has been mounting on the election commissioners to step aside so new members can take over and hold a fair election, but so far only one has bitten the bullet, leaving three still clinging to their posts.
Supreme Court secretary Wirat Chinwinitkul said that since the Supreme Court had already ruled against nominating any new commissioners, since it believed the old commissioners lacked legitimacy, its decision could not be overturned.
Thaksin refused to speculate on what would happen if the opposition did not want to proceed under the EC incumbents.
"Do not set conditions for the commissioners. This is a time for reconciliation," he said.
Rongpol said he believed that the election process would not be affected by the Constitution Court's hearing of a request to dissolve five parties, including the Thai Rak Thai and Democrat parties, as a decision would take longer than October 15, the day of the election.
Rongpol refused to say if the general election would be derailed if the court found the EC members guilty of malfeasance in connection with the April 2 election.
The commissioners will automatically lose their status if they are jailed for even one day.
Thaksin said he would invite the international PollWatch body to observe the October 15 election.
A Thai Rak Thai source said Thaksin's tactics would be worth watching as he had many times before told the Cabinet and key party members that he would declare that he was taking a break after the royal decree for the October 15 election was announced. However, the source could not say if Thaksin would keep his word.
But Surapong, the government spokesman, said Thaksin would spearhead the Thai Rak Thai's re-election campaign as No 1 on the party list, as he did in the April 2 snap election.
At that time the three main opposition parties opted to boycott the snap election, saying it was not fair to them.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva confirmed that his party would field candidates this time, as the people needed a government.
However, the EC has lost its credibility, and the Democrats will continue to call on the three commissioners to quit, he said.
Democrat senior adviser Chuan Leekpai said the election was not enough to solve all political problems and the EC was only one of them. Election fraud and outlawed measures used by politicians, such as interference in bureaucrats' work, will mar the electoral process, he said.
Suriyasai Katasila, spokesman for the People's Alliance for Democracy, said it would continue its campaign to depose Thaksin until he ended his political career or took a break from government.
"The PAD isn't against the election. We accept the election, but when a new election is scheduled, we have to ask Thaksin to keep his word not to accept a position until political reform is completed. Will he break his word and contest the premiership?," he said.
In that case the PAD will continue to mobilise mass protests and may call on all citizens to mark "No Vote" on the ballot or abstain from voting, he said. PAD leaders will discuss political issues related to the election soon.
Chat Thai Party deputy leader Somsak Prissananthakul said his party would contest the upcoming election but hoped it would be under a new EC.