Several provinces not ready for poll tomorrow

national February 01, 2014 00:00

By The Nation

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Clashes feared in the South as delivery of ballot papers blockaded by protesters

Several provinces, mainly in the South, do not seem to be ready for tomorrow’s election as millions of ballot papers have yet to be delivered to polling stations. 
Anti-government protesters have continued camping out at post offices in Chumphon, Thung Song district in Nakhon Si Thammarat and Hat Yai in Songkhla to block the delivery of ballot cards to constituencies in the South. 
However, some voters in the three southern-most provinces, including Pattani, are angry about the blockade. Yesterday, a group of people gathered in front of Pattani provincial hall, demanding that they be allowed to exercise their right to vote. They also plan to go to the upper South region to confront the protesters. 
In a Facebook post yesterday, Election Commission (EC) member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said not a single ballot card for party-list votes had been sent out of the post offices in the three southern provinces, suggesting that voters in 14 southern provinces might only have a ballot card to vote for the constituency candidate. 
Voting requires two cards – one for a party-list candidate and one for a constituency candidate. 
EC chairman Supachai Somcharoen said the commander of the 4th Army Region Lt-General Sakol Cheuntrakul had failed to get protesters in Songkhla to release the ballot cards. 
“We will continue negotiating as we do not want to use force and cause the loss of lives. We could hold the election later,” Supachai told reporters.
Asked if people’s failure to cast their ballot tomorrow may force the poll to be nullified, Supachai said legal experts should interpret the Constitution’s flexibility. He added that the EC would also speak with legal experts today. 
“The Constitutional Court should be the one to decide on the election’s validity. The EC cannot prejudge this,” he said. 
The Constitution says an election needs to be held on the same day across the nation. However, there are no candidates for 28 constituencies in eight provinces in the South, which is mostly the stronghold of the Democrat Party. The Democrats have boycotted the poll. 
Meanwhile, caretaker Labour Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung, in his capacity as director of the Centre for Maintaining Peace and Order, believes there will be violent clashes tomorrow, especially in the deep South where voters are furious about the blockade. He said the Democrat Party should be held responsible for its moves to disrupt elections in the region. 
Anti-government protesters have also blocked the delivery of ballot cards to Lak Si in Bangkok, although protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said initially that his group would not block voting tomorrow. Lak Si district chief Narong Chongchampha said he had not expected the blockade. 

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