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February 2 Poll

Pheu Thai: We'll defy court

Ruling party says Constitutional Court should not annul Feb 2 poll

The Constitutional Court is due to begin a hearing today on whether to nullify the February 2 election - despite a statement issued yesterday by the ruling Pheu Thai Party, which said it would defy the court, even before it knows what its decision is.

Bhokin Bhalakula, Pheu Thai's legal expert, said the party had yet to discuss what to do if the court nullifies the poll. But it wants to say it feels the hearing is not right.

The statement alleged the Ombudsman had no right to forward a petition on the poll to the Constitutional Court as there was no conflict between the Royal Decree on the House of Representatives' dissolution, which stated February 2 as the only election date, and the charter.

The party also claimed that behaviour by six independent agencies including the Election Commission, seeking to organise talks to resolve the political crisis, was suspicious. The party said there had been a "conspiracy" by independent agencies joining forces with the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee to try to abort the election.

A petition asking the Constitutional Court to rule on the validity of the poll was forwarded by the Ombudsman on behalf of Thammasat University law lecturer Kittipong Kamolthamwong, who claimed the election process was flawed and unfair.

The judges are scheduled to try the case today. Key people to be summoned for testimony include Election Commission chief Supachai Somcharoen, Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana and Justice Minister Chaikasem Nitisiri on behalf of the prime minister, and Ombudsman Pornpetch Vichitcholachai. Supachai said he would lead an EC legal team to testify to the court.

It is not known if the court will hand down a ruling today. The Constitutional Court had earlier accepted another petition related to the election filed by the EC.

One of the queries raised by the EC was whether a new Royal Decree would need to be issued for 28 constituencies that did not have candidates or for all constituencies.

If the court rules that a Royal Decree is needed for all constituencies, then a new general election will be needed. The court may also include the EC's petition in the Ombudsman's case.

EC member Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said he believed the court could rule in two possible ways - the EC could go ahead with elections in the 28 constituencies where there were no candidates or that the election on February 2 was unconstitutional.

If the court gives a green light, the EC was ready to hold balloting immediately. But if the court rules that the election was unlawful, the poll agency was also ready to organise a new election, he said.

Observers believe a breakthrough may happen if the court rules the Feb 2 poll was unlawful, and annuls the election results.

Meanwhile, tourism operators and foreign investors welcomed the move to lift the state of emergency in Bangkok yesterday. They said this would boost tourism over the next one or two months. But they believed the economy would take some time to recover, as the political scene remains volatile.

In the statement, Pheu Thai said problems as cited by the Thammasat law lecturer and the EC could be solved by means allowed by the law. A problem noted by Kittipong was that the election could not take place in the 28 constituencies on February 2. This meant the election was unable to be held on the same day nationwide, as required by the law.

Cancelling a "democratic" poll would lead to more rifts, the party said in its statement. The court's willingness to consider the case "without a mandate" would be dangerous for the rule of law. It would cause a crisis of faith in the justice system, it said.

"The Pheu Thai Party accepts the conduct of constitutional organisations only under the Constitution and the law. The party will not accept any conduct [that is] not constitutional and lawful, especially dishonest use of laws as the tool for the purpose of political destruction," it said.

"The party will stand firm beside the people in the fight for the people's sovereign power, not to let the sovereign power be in the hands of the Constitutional Court or independent organisations according to the Constitution. The party is always ready for the election, which allows the people to decide on the political future on their own."

The statement said that if the court rules that the February 2 election should be nullified, it would set a bad standard for political parties, as they would be aware they could lose an election and come out and obstruct a poll being staged.




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