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EC hits on new poll strategy but treads carefully

The Election Commission (EC) seems to have seen the light at the end of the tunnel in attempting to resolve the country's political standoff which, if prolonged much longer, could send the country reeling under civil strife, economic meltdown and political and social disintegration.

The EC has come to understand that holding a new election across the country is the solution to the current political crisis.

However, it can achieve this mission only through a Constitutional Court ruling.

For the process needed to complete the February 2 poll, the caretaker government and the EC have locked horns over whether the EC must issue a royal decree to fix an election date for the 28 constituencies in southern provinces that have no MP candidates.

The government has insisted the EC can go ahead and hold MP candidacy registration without a royal decree on a new polling date, since the registration is related to the February 2 poll. It has also cited legal principles of interpreting legislation in a way that would bring about practical results, and not a dead-end.

The EC, however, has chosen to strictly interpret the law, saying there is no legal venue that allows the EC to re-hold candidacy registration in those 28 constituencies; hence, the government must issue a new decree.

The EC appears to have hit on a motive for proposing that the government issues a new decree, even though it knows the government will not approve its proposal.

Its motive is that it can cite this conflict of authority to seek a Constitutional Court

ruling, a legal channel stipulated in Article 214 of the Constitution.

But instead of rushing to seek the court ruling over this legal dispute, the EC is treading carefully so that it does not repeat the same bungle it committed when it sought the court ruling over who has the authority to reschedule the election - the government or itself. The Constitutional Court ruled that the government and the EC should discuss the matter together.

Legal experts believe the Constitutional Court did not issue a legal interpretation in a way that translated into an EC victory because the EC failed to discuss it with the government prior to bringing the legal dispute before the court.

Even though the problem of the 28 constituencies is unprecedented, the EC has anticipated the court will rule that the new candidacy registration requires a new decree. This would result in the 28 constituencies having a new election date, which is unconstitutional because the country's top law stipulates that voting must be held on the same day across the country.

To prevent an issue of constitutionality, the court might rule that the EC holds an election again across the country without nullifying the February 2 election, as that would risk plunging the country into deeper conflict.

While a royal decree on a new poll was being legislated, the EC could bring the two rival political camps to the negotiating table in order that no party boycotted the new election.

The EC believes both political camps would likely accept this solution to end the political crisis.

The Pheu Thai party would not mind opting for this solution because it has said it was willing to issue a new decree as long as there was a court ruling to back it legally, otherwise the PM might risk breaking any law by issuing a new election bill.

In terms of going to the polls again, the Pheu Thai has a long-held belief that it is invincible.


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