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Democrats, PDRC wrestle with election day strategy

Some members want ballots marked 'No Vote." Others want boycott of poll

THE DECISION by the caretaker government to go ahead with the election on Sunday poses a dilemma for both the Democrat Party - which boycotted the election - and the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), which seeks reform before the election.

Now, as pressure mounts on the Democrats, former Democrat MPs are analysing scenarios during the poll, according to the party's executive committee.

A party source said several Democrats suggested the party should campaign for a "no vote", encouraging voters to go to the polls, but not to vote for any candidate.

This would reduce the Pheu Thai Party's ability to use the election results to claim support for the Thaksin regime. It would also prevent former MPs from being stripped of their political rights if they failed to attend the voting.

But other members said the party could not campaign for a "no vote" because it had not fielded any candidates for the snap election, the source added.

"If we launched the campaign we might get sued by the Pheu Thai Party. It would also create a conflict between us and the PDRC and undermine its goal to push for reform before an election. So Democrat members should make their own decisions on whether to go out to vote or not," the source said.

Deputy secretary general Sirichok Sopha said his party had no need to campaign for a "no vote" because the February 2 election would eventually be nullified.

He said the Election Commission could not hold elections in 28 constituencies that lacked candidates to contest the ballot on other dates. Article 108 of the Constitution stipulates that the national election has to be held on only the scheduled date.

"Now we have only three days before the election. It might not be long enough to launch the campaign. I think if more than 50 per cent of voters refuse to show up, the upcoming election result would not be valid," he said.

Sirichok, who is a close aide of Democrat party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, admitted that he and Abhisit would probably not go to the poll. He questioned why he should vote in an election that was going to fail.

"Abhisit also had the same idea, and everything he did, he did for his beliefs. So he might not turn out to vote," Sirichok said.

The source said former MPs who decide not to show up at the polling booths will inform the EC within seven days, explaining that they had no confidence in the security as rallies against the election would affect them on election day.

"I heard that the PDRC leaders planned to block many polling stations, especially those where the caretaker prime minister, ministers and well-known public figures [will cast their votes]," the source said.

Meanwhile, a former Democrat MP who asked not to be named said several members are concerned that if they go to the poll they could be photographed by pro-government supporters and the images later posted on social media.

"The party leaders decided not to contest the election, but did not boycott the right to vote. We will go to cast ballots, because we have to maintain the right to impeach evil politicians," the source said.

Like the Democrats, PDRC supporters also have concerns. Its leaders are also split into two camps. One camp says the PDRC should campaign for a "no vote" to show their opposition to the caretaker government, while the other thinks they should campaign for voters not to vote at all, to show that they reject the polls.

"Our supporters frequently ask us what they should do on election day. We will have a clear answer for them in a day or two," a source from the PDRC said.


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