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Rival camps have no choice but to make a deal

If caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra could have made the decision herself, many people believe she would have stood aside from politics for the rest of her life when the anti-government People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) stepped up its rallies to oust the government four months ago.

But former premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who is pulling the strings behind the Yingluck administration, would not allow his younger sister to do so. His advisers insisted the PM could not legally resign, saying her duty was to be caretaker prime minister until a new government was elected.

That's one reason today why Yingluck needs patience in waiting out the protests.

However, according to former election commissioner Sodsri Satayathum, the caretaker government could expire in early March - when the 30-day deadline for the House of Representatives to convene is reached - as the number of MPs voted into Parliament in the February 2 election is less than 95 per cent of the possible total of 500. That means the first parliamentary session cannot be held.

Article 127 of the Constitution requires that within 30 days after the election, the first Parliament sitting must be convened.

According to Sodsri, some groups plan to file a petition to the Constitutional Court, seeking a judicial review on whether the caretaker government was ineffective or not, based on the House being unable to call a meeting before March 4 and being unable to elect a new PM within 30 days of the first parliamentary session.

"It would create a political deadlock and might pave the way for establishment of a non-elected prime minister under Article 7 of the charter," Sodsri said.

Eventually, Yingluck is going to be forced to step down.

A Pheu Thai leader, who asked not to be named, said the best time for Yingluck to leave the spotlight has passed already. Thaksin's aides had proposed the party should take leadership back from members of the Shinawatra family in the snap election, but other factions inside Pheu Thai disagreed.

"If the party had dropped Yingluck as a candidate for the prime minister's post in a new election, people would have thought we'd found her guilty of mismanagement. Thaksin, however, saw no need to abandon his sister. So Yingluck was finally picked as No 1 party-list candidate," the source said.

However, his decision turns Yingluck into a liability. There's a chance she may face multiple lawsuits - the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) has pressed charges against her over the rice-pledging scheme and the PDRC will file criminal cases against her for her alleged roles in the crackdown on protesters, which it claims led to many deaths.

In addition, demonstrators are taking aim at businesses linked to the Shinawatra family.

As a result, the government has no choice but to make a deal with PDRC leaders led by Suthep Thaugsuban to resolve their problems at the negotiating table.

Why is this the time for talks?

Because, as Suthep once said, "If someone instigates a civil war, I will tell the people to go home."

Although the two sides raised national reform as a key issue for talking, the condition that both the government and the PDRC really want is to push for an amnesty bill - in the case of the latter, because of possibly illegal acts committed during the protests. And some Pheu Thai leaders have told Thaksin he was close to realising his demand to return home.

While both sides - the red shirt protesters and the whistle-blowing protesters - continue to face off, it's easier to reach agreement than ever before as it would help soften the legal consequences for both the current and former prime ministers from the Shinawatra family. It could also shield PDRC leaders from insurrection accusations.

However, it should be remembered the demonstrators first took to the streets to fight against the blanket amnesty bill that would have paved the way for Thaksin to come home a free man.

The big question is: are the PDRC protesters ready to push for a new blanket amnesty bill?


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