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Army help sought for poll

Army commander-in-chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha gestures while talking to a group of reporters about the ongoing political confrontation, at the Army headquarters yesterday.

Army commander-in-chief General Prayuth Chan-ocha gestures while talking to a group of reporters about the ongoing political confrontation, at the Army headquarters yesterday.

EC seeks dialogue with both sides, says no push for election delay

The government will ask the military to support and oversee safety measures for both candidates and voters on election day, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul said yesterday.

Surapong, who is in charge of the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order, said he would ask to meet Supreme Commander General Tanasak Patimaprakorn to discuss the matter.

Surapong, who is also caretaker foreign minister, said the request was in response to the Election Commission's concern that there would be more violence before election day, which could mean that it was impossible to hold the poll as scheduled on February 2.

The EC has liaised with both the government and protest leaders in search of an accord ahead of the general election, a commission member said yesterday.

Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, who is in charge of electoral management, said the commissioners had talked with "very high-ranking leaders" of both sides about a possible dialogue with them before New Year's Day. The EC would meet one side at a time, he added.

"We are not seeking to postpone the election. We seek dialogue with both sides so that the country can progress," Somchai said.

He called on both sides to tone down their demands and suggested that the EC might set conditions acceptable to both of them.

"Very high-ranking leaders of both sides have been approached," he said, declining to disclose more details. "Let's wait until there is a discussion. I expect it to happen some time before New Year's Day."

He also said the EC's latest move had been agreed upon by all five election commissioners, and that the agency was acting carefully to prevent any accusations of bias.

He said the EC did not want a postponement of the election.

On Thursday, however, the watchdog had asked the government to postpone the poll after violent clashes between police and protesters that left two people dead and more than 100 injured.

The government rejected the idea, saying it had no authority to defer the election.

Somchai said the EC was continuously assessing the political dispute and agreed that the election, should it be held as scheduled, would not solve problems in society and that conflicting factions should hold talks to reach an understanding and agreement.

Caretaker PM's Office Minister Varathep Ratanakorn said the government had yet to coordinate with the EC, but it believed that a delay in the election would contribute to more violence and unrest.

"If we have an election in 60 days [from when the poll date was announced], we will have new cabinet members and national legislators sooner," he said.

Caretaker Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan said the government could be charged with dereliction of duty if it failed to ensure that the general election went ahead as planned.

Caretaker Deputy PM Phongthep Thepkanchana, meanwhile, said it would be against the Constitution to postpone the poll.

The Council of State, which is the government's legal advisory agency, has suggested to the government that the postponement of an election is allowed by the electoral law in the event of riot, emergency or force majeure - and that a postponement may take place only in those constituencies where such incidents occur.

A new election date may be designated within seven days of the conclusion of such an incident, according to the council.

The EC yesterday decided to move the venue for registering MP candidates for Bangkok constituencies to the Government Complex in Nonthaburi.

Registration of MP candidates in all 375 constituencies nationwide begins today and ends next Wednesday, January 1.

Registration in the provinces will be held at locations designated by local election authorities.

The EC's Somchai said the agency had empowered the provincial election authorities to decide about moving the registration venues, or even suspending the registration, in the event of an emergency or violence.

A video conference was held yesterday between election commissioners and the provincial election authorities about final preparations for the registration.






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