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Delay poll, hold reform forum: top Justice man

Push for later election gains momentum; EC and others opt out of meeting today

A second top official has called for the election to be set back and a forum organised to focus on political reform. He also urged the government to review its role as a caretaker administration.

The permanent secretary of Justice Kittipong Kittayarak posted on Facebook yesterday that the February 2 election should be postponed for three to six months, and a forum set up for all stakeholders to discuss a ballot that would lead to national reform.

Meanwhile, many parties have refused to join a meeting today being organised by the government to discuss problems about the election.

The Election Commission (EC) said yesterday it would not join a meeting of all parties hosted by the government today on the election and suggested a meeting with the government should take place first.

"The government and the Election Commission are the two responsible agencies, so we need agreement between us first," Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said.

He noted that the EC offered a meeting with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra tomorrow.

The proposed meeting on Thursday would be arranged between Prime Minister Yingluck and five members of the Election Commission, he said. The EC had earlier proposed that the government to issue a new decree to have the election delayed from February 2 till May, as it faced many difficulties with the current date. The Office of the Auditor General told the EC previously the state would waste billions of baht if the poll failed.

If the commission could not reach common agreement on the election, it would appeal to the Constitutional Court to seek a ruling, Somchai said.

Prime Minister Yingluck said yesterday she would like to meet with the EC today together with other agencies and political parties in order to get more comprehensive ideas from all. "It's better to have all parties in the meeting. We cannot solve the problem with only one or two people."

There were two kinds of problems, she said, adding that the election management problem was how to get it done, plus there was a legal issue on whether it could be postponed.

However, EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong said yesterday he would represent the commission at the meeting today at the Air Force Headquarters to inform the government about difficulties arranging the poll on February 2.

The government has invited as many as 70 people from the Election Commission, political parties and political groups including the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) to a meeting today to discuss the election after the EC suggested the Feb 2 poll should be postponed.

"As the Election Commission proposed the idea to delay the election, why don't they join the meeting to explain the plan," Deputy Premier Phongthep Thepkanjana said.

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjejiva, whose party boycotted the election, said the government and Election Commission should reach an agreement on the date of the election before discussing it with others. "It's useless for the prime minister to preside over a meeting of 70 people. The meeting would create more differences and conflict," he said.

"[Yingluck's] brother did all this in the past, issuing a new election decree, taking leave from the caretaker PM's post - you name it. But if the PM insists on what she told the UN secretary-general that she has no power, she doesn't have to invite anybody to discuss this, but let the EC decide."

PDRC spokesman Akanat Prom-phan said his group would not join the meeting today. "We have a clear stance to have an election after reforms."


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