Delay poll or risk violence: EC

national January 17, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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Agency seeks one-on-one meet between PM, EC chief; govt stands firm on Feb 2

In its strongest warning yet to the caretaker government, the Election Commission yesterday said pushing ahead with the February 2 election could spark a severe conflict, possibly leading to violent civil unrest.
Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, who is one of the five election commissioners, said postponement of the election until May could help ease the ill will between proponents and opponents of the February 2 polls. He said the extended period could be spent implementing reforms or changing laws, as demanded by the protesters, who have rallied for more than 70 days.
“The government seems to opt for a war by pushing ahead with the February 2 election,” Somchai said. “If we remain stubborn, we will see hell before us.”
He warned of possible riots by people who disagree with an early election. There could also be widespread outrage if police take action against voters who break the law, such as by tearing up ballot papers.
“The EC doesn’t want to see more firewood thrown on the fire. Whatever we can do to put out the fire, we are ready to do it,” Somchai said, adding that in a tense situation like this, even a small dispute could lead to a riot or more severe forms of conflict.
The caretaker government yesterday stood firm against postponing the election. The caretaker PM and other Cabinet members also ruled out stepping down, as had been demanded by the protesters, according to a source in the ruling Pheu Thai Party.
Somchai said yesterday that the EC had been unable to reach caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but will continue its attempts until EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen can meet with her. He had tried unsuccessfully to reach Yingluck by phone. “The call was not answered and I didn’t get any call back,” Somchai said.
He said the EC was seeking a meeting with Yingluck today at the Navy Convention Hall to discuss the election agency’s postponement proposal. He pointed to concern over possible violence in the run-up to the election. If the PM is busy today, the EC would continue sending her an invitation every day until she responds, he said.
“One side has said there are many problems [with holding a February 2 election]. The other side cannot simply go shopping. There must be a discussion. We should avoid pouting, like they do in TV dramas,” he said.
Meanwhile, the caretaker PM's secretary-general, Suranand Vejjajiva, said the PM had not received any official invitation for a meeting from the Election Commission. Therefore, there will be no meeting with the EC today as stated by the EC to media.
Somchai said the EC wanted to meet the PM in person – and not her representative – to discuss important legal issues involving the election. He would disclose those issues during a meeting with the PM. Somchai said caretaker Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan should also attend the meeting with the EC.
He said the idea of discussing the matter with the PM was agreed by all five election commissioners.
“It’s no use the prime minister trying to avoid us. We have to help ensure peace in our country. The government should have respect for the EC chairman and they should talk with us,” Somchai said.
On Wednesday, Yingluck, after meeting representatives from 37 parties, said the majority of the participants insisted that the election go ahead as scheduled. 
Meanwhile, chief coalition whip Aumnuay Khlangpha yesterday said he would sue the election commissioners if the February 2 election does not take place. Pheu Thai Party members in the South who could not register as election candidates have already filed police complaints.