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No second poll decree required, govt says

Phongthep says EC request to 'legalise' voting in the South is not necessary

In another sign of discord, the government rejected a proposal by the election agency yesterday to issue a new Royal Decree to set a new date for voting in southern provinces where there were no candidates in the election.

The Election Commission (EC) resolved yesterday to propose that the caretaker government issue a new Royal Decree to set a new poll date for 28 constituencies in eight provinces which have no candidates.

Election commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said after a special meeting that the EC felt the government needed to issue a new decree to handle polling in the 28 constituencies because the EC had no authority. There were no candidates in these seats because protesters had blocked candidates from registering. He said the poll agency would submit its opinion by letter and asked the government to respond as soon as possible.

However, the proposal was rebutted by caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana. He said it was not necessary to issue a new decree as each one allowed the EC to hold voting until all MP seats are filled, as required by the Constitution, or 95 per cent of the 500 seats before convening a House session.

"You can trace back to 1997 when we first had the EC to organise the election. As long as the EC has not endorsed the poll results it can hold voting several times under the same decree," he said.

However, the government would consult with its legal advisers if the EC sent the proposal, he said.

If the government issues a new decree to conduct polling in the 28 constituencies without candidates it could automatically nullify the February 2 ballot, legal experts claim.

Former Democrat MP legal expert Wirat Kalayasiri said the EC had no authority to set a new poll date for those constituencies. The only way to fill MPs in the 28 constituencies was to issue a new decree to set a new general poll date for the whole country or 375 constituencies, following Article 108 of the charter.

Meanwhile, many figures in the ruling party have admitted to the increasing likelihood that the February 2 election will be declared void and that Pheu Thai will be unable to form a new government after the poll, a party source has claimed.

The party's secretary-general, Phumtham Vechayachai, said yesterday that Pheu Thai had not ruled out the possibility of the election being declared void although its politicians see no legal issues that could lead to such a scenario.

The Democrat Party filed a petition to the Constitutional Court this week seeking to nullify the poll

The EC spent six hours in its meeting yesterday to decide what to do with several problems related to the election.

It resolved to hold new voting in 671 polling stations in seven provinces that closed or failed to open because of blockades or disruptions. These were some of the total of 10,284 stations in 18 provinces, where protesters blocked ballots from being cast last Sunday. The provinces are Rayong, Yala, Pattani, Narathiwat, Phetchaburi, Prachuap Khiri Khan, and Satun. The EC will talk with election chiefs in the seven provinces next Tuesday on when the new date should be set.

The EC also resolved to organise new voting for absentee voting in 83 constituencies in 15 provinces, which were blocked by protesters on January 26. Around 2 million voters failed to cast their ballots on that day.

The EC's Somchai said voting at polling stations where some people had managed to initially cast ballots but which was later disrupted by protesters would not be held again. The EC would instead count the already-cast ballots, he said.

The February 2 election caused many problems for the EC. Some 28 constituencies had no candidates; more than 10,000 polling stations were not able to open; about 10 million voters were not able to cast ballots; a second round of advance voting is still needed; and 16 constituencies having only one candidate. As well, party-list MPs cannot be decided until people vote in 15 southern provinces where polling was not held due to the ballot cards being blocked and not delivered.

But people still managed to vote at almost 90 per cent of polling stations on February 2.


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