The results of talks between the Election Commission (EC) and caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra today are highly anticipated: Will they agree to postpone the election on Sunday or not?
Yingluck has always insisted her government came to office democratically through an election. To the Pheu Thai Party, this election then would warrant its legitimacy. Deferring the election would not guarantee the same problems won’t arise again in the future.
The anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee secretary-general has insisted all along that postponing the election was not the point – the group wants the Yingluck government to resign and pave the way for national reform first.
The Constitutional Court ruled that the election could be rescheduled, to prevent chaos or a big loss to the country and to make the election free and fair. It also said the rescheduling of the election date should be the joint responsibility of the caretaker PM and the EC chairman.
As the court gave its ruling on Friday, and the EC and Yingluck had not met, it was too late to cancel the advance voting set for Sunday.
In a way, however, this advance voting was a test for the February 2 election.
Caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, supervising the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order, said the advance voting in 66 provinces had been successful.
Caretaker PM’s secretary-general Pol Maj-General Thawat Boonfueng said yesterday Yingluck had insisted from the beginning that according to the law, the election could not be postponed. He personally thought the court’s ruling was not clear and therefore could not be applied in practice.
Despite early concern about violence and the blockading of voters, Thawat said the advance election on Sunday was carried out well except in only some constituencies. He said he expected no bloodshed on Sunday.
The EC announced last Sunday that advance voting in 83 of 375 constituencies – or about 22 per cent – had been cancelled.
EC secretary-general Puchong Nutrawong said yesterday that among the 548 polling sites for advance voting on Sunday, 111 sites cancelled the voting. Ballot casting at 64 out of 152 polling sites for absentee voting was cancelled.
While 55,243 voters registered for advance voting, 38,093 – or 68.96 per cent – turned up to vote. Also, 113,030 voters out of 2,163,025 voters registered for absentee voting also turned out, he said.
Citing the large number of voting venues, EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn expressed concern that with protesters rallying there would not be enough officials to take care of the election on Sunday and the vote should be postponed.
From another angle, on the main election day, a blockade by protesters would be more difficult as, according to Puchong, there are over 100,000 ballot units scattered around the country.
The total number of eligible voters would be as many as 46 million, excluding the two million who registered for absentee or advance voting.
If there is an election, the vote count will take place even if the EC is not able to endorse the vote result. Pheu Thai has high hopes it will win the majority of votes – especially after its rival Democrat Party has boycotted the election. It would claim its legitimacy to hold government – although it might be a caretaker one without a functioning House of Representatives.
Holding on for about five days will not be too long a period for the Pheu Thai Party to push through the election, and the party is likely to decide to push it through as soon as possible.