EC's Somchai says court ruling won't end conflict

national March 21, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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Chalerm hopes Feb 2 poll is annulled, certain Pheu Thai will win

Election Commission member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn says the Constitutional Court’s ruling today on the validity of the February 2 election is unlikely to end the political crisis.

Somchai posted a message on Facebook late Wednesday night saying that no matter which way the court rules, one of the two polarised sides would not be happy. “Whether the court annuls the election or gives the go-ahead for the 28 remaining constituencies, there will be a new round of troubles,” Somchai wrote.
Meanwhile, caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung said he hoped the court would nullify the election so a new one could be held and people could make a decision again. He would wait to see if the Democrats would run in the next election and whether the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) would end its rally.
He said he was confident that the Pheu Thai Party would win anyway. 
The Constitutional Court is scheduled to rule this morning on queries raised by the EC, including whether a new Royal Decree was needed for just the 28 constituencies that did not have candidates or for all constituencies. 
It is also scheduled to rule on the validity of the poll in the case forwarded by the Office of the Ombudsman on behalf of Thammasat University law lecturer Kittipong Kamolthamwong, who claimed the election process was flawed and unfair.
Pheu Thai legal expert Bhokin Bhalakula said he believed the court had already made up its mind and would nullify the February 2 election.
The Pheu Thai Party met yesterday to discuss the court’s scheduled ruling. Legal expert Kanin Boonsuwan later posed six questions regarding the consequences of the poll being nullified. The questions included: Who would be responsible for the Bt3 billion cost of the election? Why are candidates from 53 parties and voters being with the annulment of the election? Who will submit the election decree for royal endorsement?
The party also asked how the EC would be responsible legally and financially for the failed election. Pheu Thai said the PDRC and the Democrat Party must be held responsible for obstructing the election. “What right does a university lecturer have to ask the Ombudsman to forward a case to the Constitutional Court to annul an election that belongs to the people of the country and is under the Constitution?” he posed.
In the Facebook post, Somchai said were the election to be annulled by the ruling, the government and the EC would have to reach an agreement to issue a new decree to set a new election date, which could be May 18.
“But the UDD [United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship] may not accept the ruling and the PDRC [People’s Democratic Reform Committee] may insist that reforms precede the election,” Somchai wrote.
Somchai said if the court rules that the election for the 28 constituencies could go ahead, the election might be held on April 27 with advance voting possibly taking place on April 20.
But, he said, several make-up elections would need to be held to complete the entire process and there could be more protests and blocking of the elections. “If it turns left, it won’t end easily. If it turns right, it will face hurdles. We must resign ourselves to a fate where the situation we have experienced over the past seven months will continue,” he said. He added the situation would definitely develop to the point where only negotiations could provide a solution.