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EC says it's ready to hold an election

Commission awaiting royal approval of dissolution before it can set poll date

The Election Commission (EC) confirmed yesterday that they would be ready to organise a new election, after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced a dissolution of Parliament.

The EC said it was just waiting for royal approval of the House dissolution, before they consider an election date.

After an EC meeting yesterday, Prapun Naigowit, caretaker Election Commission member in charge of elections, said changes at the state agency should not be a problem. The outgoing EC panel remained in full authority under the Constitution, until the new commission had royal approval.

The EC would organise the election in 45-60 days and plans for by-elections for eight constituents - who resigned from the Democrat Party to take part in the anti-government protests - would be cancelled automatically.

Prapun warned the caretaker government also to be careful about transferring officials and budget outlays. He said the caretaker government could not sign any project that would have long-term commitments - such as the Bt2 trillion in loans for infrastructure.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Party issued a statement supporting Yingluck's decision and called on protesters to stop their rally. The party also called on the Democrat Party to propose policies and run in the next election.

Education Minister Chaturon Chaisang said that although the Cabinet's status had ended after parliament was dissolved, ministers would continue duties pending a new Cabinet.

He also felt there was no point for members of Cabinet to stop their duties, as that could be a violation of the Constitution.

Army deputy spokesman Col Winthai Suwaree affirmed that the army was ready to provide security to the country and people from all sides, as well as promote peace and unity despite people's differences. The Army hoped the political conflict would not become violent.

Appointed Senator Wicharn Sirichai-ekawat thanked Yingluck for the House dissolution, which, his group believed, would defuse the political tension. He urged the EC, members of the public and political parties to participate in a just and transparent election.

Niran Pitakwatchara, from the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC)'s sub-committee on civic and political rights, said the government should talk with protest leaders about reforms and confirm that they will not resurrect the amnesty bill. He said the NHRC had observed the crisis unfolding and he urged the government to carefully control protesters and to instruct police not to use violence.

Appointed Senator Somchai Swangkarn, a key member of the Group of 40 senators, said Yingluck had been too slow to dissolve the House and it was a mistake to remain as a caretaker government.

To defuse political tension, the government, Pheu Thai Party, coalition partners and opposition party should together announce they will not run in the election yet, he said. They should instead join in political reform to boost people participation - which could take six months to one year.

He also suggested Yingluck should resign and be replaced by a deputy prime minister.

In related news, small parties such as Chat Thai Pattana plan to hold meetings soon to prepare for the anticipated national election, while Rak Prathet Thai Party and Matubhum Party were hesitant about rushing to join an election.

Rak Prathet Thai leader Chuwit Kamolvisit said announcement of the House dissolution was not democratic, as Yingluck was pressured by protesters led by Suthep Thaugsuban, and this wouldn't end the political crisis. The protesters wouldn't stop because they planned to reject the caretaker government and ask for a royally-granted Cabinet under Article 7 of the charter.

Matubhum leader Sonthi Boonyaratkalin said he needed to reflect about the party's political future, for, while the House dissolution went according to the Constitution it was hard to say it was a solution to the political dispute. That was because protesters wanted something different from what the government or the Democrat Party leaders wanted.

While politicians wanted an election, protesters wanted a "people's parliament" for political reform, he said.



Chronology

8.39am: Demonstrators at all rally sites prepared to march to Government House. Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva headed to join the Silom business mass rally, while party chief adviser Chuan Leekpai led former Democrat MPs from the party headquarters.

8.39am: People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) leader Suthep Thaugsuban set off on march from the Government Complex at Chaeng Wattana Road to Government House.

8.42am: Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced via Thai TV Pool that she had sought royal approval to dissolve the House. Her Cabinet would act as an interim government until there is a new Cabinet.

8.47am: PDRC leader Satit Wongnongtaey declared primary victory on the Rajdamnoen rally stage but demanded that the caretaker Cabinet resign once the lower House of parliament is dissolved.

10am: Many groups of protesters reached the wall of Government House and were waiting there for the main procession led by Suthep Thaugsuban to join them.

10am: The Criminal Court turned down a police request to approve arrest warrants for 13 PDRD leaders for treason.

11am: Deputy Prime Minister and chief of the Centre for the Administration of Peace and Order (CAPO) Surapong Tovichakchaikul along with DPM Pracha Promnog and Interior Minister Charupong Ruangsuwan held a press conference via NBT. They urged people and students who joined the huge anti-government protest heading to Government House to return home for the sake of the country and to protect democracy.

11.30am: Deputy Metropolitan Police chief Pol Maj Gen Chanthawit Ramasutr said police would not allow protesters and reporters to enter the Government House compound.

11.45am: Protest leader Satit Wongnongtaey called on MCOT, NBT to broadcast the protest live as all other free TV channels are doing, in full or on a small screen.

3. 10pm: the main procession led by Suthep reached Government House.

4pm: PDRC leader Suthep announced at Government House that he would wait until all protesters gathered. He began delivering his speech at around 6pm.


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