January 16, 2014 00:00 By HATAIKARN TREESUWAN,
Says her decision backed by most of those attending
multi- party meeting yesterday; urges EC to do its duty
AFTER HOLDING a meeting with representatives from different political parties and officials from agencies related to the election, caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra decided yesterday to go ahead with the February 2 poll.
Insisting that her government had no authority to postpone the vote, she said the Election Commission (EC) had the power to get government agencies to cooperate and ensure the election goes smoothly.
Yingluck, who met with representatives from 37 parties, said the majority of the participants insisted that the election go ahead as scheduled.
“Now that the meeting has learned about problems related to the election, we will try to deal with them and send the resolution to the EC,” she said.
The caretaker government invited up to 70 individuals from the EC, political parties, government agencies and political groups, including the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee, to the meeting.
However, the EC was only represented by secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong, while the Democrat Party and the PDRC did not send any representatives.
While General Nipat Thonglek, the permanent secretary of the Defence Ministry, attended the meeting, Supreme Commander General Tanasak Patimapragorn sent a representative.
This meeting was held one day after Kittipong Kittayarak, permanent secretary of the Justice Ministry, issued a statement saying the election should be postponed and the caretaker government should review its role.
Upon hearing of the meeting on Tuesday, the EC said Yingluck’s government should have met with the commission alone instead of turning it into such a big affair. The EC has also invited the government to a meeting today, though caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana said yesterday that the meeting was not confirmed.
Meanwhile, at the government’s event, Ekachai Chainuvati, an academic and representative of the Assembly for the Defence of Democracy (AFDD), voiced support for holding the election as scheduled, adding that under the Constitution, the prime minister had no authority to postpone the poll.
He said he believed the EC would appeal to the Constitutional Court to seek a ruling if it is unable to reach an agreement on the election.
“If the prime minister doesn’t want to see Thais kill fellow Thais, then she should not decide to issue a new decree to have the election delayed from February 2,” Ekachai warned.
Council of State secretary-general Chukiert Ratanachaichan said the council would not issue an opinion on whether to postpone the election, though he added that the royal decree on House dissolution and the call for a new election was in effect. Hence, he said, there was no choice but to hold the election as scheduled.
Puchong, meanwhile, said that though the EC had suggested that the election should be delayed, it was still going ahead with its duty of organising the poll.
He said the commission would ask government agencies, state enterprises and other agencies to support its job both in terms of providing election venues and personnel. The EC requires 140,000 members of staff to organise an election, but lacked personnel in many provinces.
Meanwhile Nipat said his office was ready to help the EC hold the election and even provide the space, officers and equipment if the commission sent over an official request.
Bhokin Bhalakula, a key figure of the ruling Pheu Thai Party who is believed to have met with the EC for secret talks, said yesterday that the commission had to go ahead with the election if it wanted to avoid an apocalyptic situation.
Many leaders of small parties also said yesterday that the EC had no authority to postpone the election, and should carry out its duties.
They also complimented Yingluck for her patience in the face of all this pressure, adding that she had their backing. The atmosphere of meeting at the Air Force Headquarters was not difference once former premier Thaksin Shinawatra called the meeting with small parties to tried to end problem, after EC faced many difficulties with holding the election because of the Democrats boycott.