If Yingluck is indicted, major players will have to talk
March 25, 2014 00:00 By Jintana Panyaarvudh
All stakeholders in Thai politics have challenges awaiting after the Constitutional Court ruled last week by six to three to nullify the February 2 election.
For the Election Commission (EC), it will be an uphill task to hold a lawful and fair election and one that is acceptable to all sides while the political impasse continues.
The EC, which tried but failed to set up talks between key players, has no choice but to try again until the stakeholders reach an agreement so the poll can be conducted peacefully.
To achieve this, the EC needs to ensure anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protesters do not disrupt candidate registration and ballot casting in an attempt to prevent a new poll being stymied.
The charter court ruled on Friday that the election must be held on the same date in all 375 constituencies, which means there must be candidates for all seats.
In the annulled February 2 election, 28 constituencies in the South had no candidates due to obstruction from anti-election protesters.
Moreover, the EC needs to urge the opposition Democrat Party to field candidates.
This may not be difficult, as it appears that the party is ready to return to contest ballots.
However for the Democrats, deciding on whether to run or not is causing a dilemma. Legally, the party risks losing its official status if it decides to boycott the poll again.
The Political Party Act stipulates that any party which boycotts two consecutive elections or fails to contest once in an eight-year period will lose its political status.
However, some argue that since the February 2 poll was nullified it cannot be counted as an election.
That legal aspect is not the main concern for the Democrats. The harder part will be deciding whether to run in a fresh poll before national reform occurs.
Can the party justify running in a new election and give a satisfactory reason to the “great mass of people” behind the PDRC and its leader Suthep Thaugsuban, who wants to initiate national reforms before an election?
The PDRC and the Democrats have common supporters.
Most members of the Democrat Party reportedly favour running in a new election as some fear they could lose mass support to rivals if they call another boycott.
Judging by the latest proposal by party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has urged the caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and Suthep to engage in dialogue, the country’s oldest party wants to take part in the next poll.
The Democrat leader realises that if an agreement cannot be reached between Yingluck and Suthep or Suthep and Yingluck’s brother, ex-premier Thaksin , the impasse will continue and there will be no sign of it ending.
The party is set to discuss the matter on Saturday – the same day that the PDRC has called for mass rallies nationwide against the new election.
But it’s unlikely that the party will be able to make a decision so soon.
For the caretaker government, how to survive indictments by independent agencies are its main concern.
The PM’s fate is in the National Anti-Corruption Commission’s hands.
Yingluck looks set to face an indictment over her alleged negligence in relation to graft in the rice-pledging scheme next month. If she is found guilty she has to be suspended from duty.
With the premier’s status at risk of being hit by indictment, the ruling Pheu Thai Party fears this could lead to an intervention and a “change” in the status quo.
In other words, it could pave the way for a non-elected government running the country with a national reform agenda before a new election is held, as the PDRC is demanding.
The government is thus doing everything to hold a fresh poll as soon as possible. To achieve this, the party will have to talk with the PDRC, the Democrats and the EC. So, the only way to unlock the political stand-off is negotiations between the key stakeholders.
But first things first. All parties concerned need to ditch their personal conditions, which seem self-serving, before the talks, otherwise the stalemate will never see a breakthrough.