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Plenty of talking, but no real attempts to fix problems

Those who saw the video of the joint press conference between caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanjana and Election Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn after their meeting on Tuesday can imagine what transpired before they addressed the media.

The event itself was less a joint press conference than a debate in which each stated his stance to the public. Not only did they appear less than ready to cooperate, but the atmosphere was such that the two clung firmly to their respective positions. Since there was no agreement, the postponement of the election was not possible. The result was not unexpected, however.

Both sides looked prepared to win the "debate", and it appeared to be more of a case of seeking to win it for their side than achieving a victory for the country as a whole.

The side of the caretaker government had the upper hand, since the EC revealed its cards early through the media. It was known before the meeting that if the two sides couldn't agree, then there couldn't be a deferment of the election, because at the end of the day, it's the government that would have to propose a new royal decree for a new election date.

Insiders who discussed the matter with caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra thus insisted that the election would take place on February 2 as scheduled, and the administration would fully support the EC in carrying out its duty.

Questions thrown at the EC during the meeting left it stumped. These included whether, if the election was deferred, the EC could guarantee that the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee's protest would end, and whether the opposition Democrat Party would withdraw its boycott contest the vote on the later date.

No one has been able to offer an answer to these questions, and the government's point is that a postponement of the election would thus make no difference. This is an undeniable truth.

The EC was also asked if the prime minister could be held liable for unconstitutionally submitting a new royal decree seeking a new election date, as she would have sole responsibility for such an action. There has been no satisfactory answer to that question.

For its part, the EC asked what would happen if Sunday's election turned violent and a result could not be announced. This, the commission argues, envisages a scenario covering not only the 125 party-list MPs, or areas where no candidate could register, but in which poll results couldn't be announced at all.

The EC cited the troubled advance voting and said a new advance vote would have to be held after February 2 and could lead to none of the constituencies having a verified election result, possibly for as long as six months.

The government refused to buy this argument, however, because it is determined to hold the election on Sunday, and no one has acted as a mediator genuinely seeking a solution that would lead to a trouble-free poll.

It is now believed that Sunday's election will be one of the most troubled in the country's history - because those in charge of ensuring a smooth election have done nothing to fix the problems.


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