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While the govt and PDRC squabble, ordinary Thais suffer

Although the February 2 election was held without the violence that was initially feared, nobody could call it a true general election, because voting did not take place in several constituencies.

This is because there were no candidates in several constituencies, and voters were blocked from casting votes in several others. Moreover, many voters were blocked from exercising their right in the advance voting on January 26.

Because of these difficulties, the EC will have to hold new rounds of voting so that the February 2 poll can be completed. The new rounds are referred to by the EC as "makeup voting".

The caretaker government tried to pressure the EC to hold the makeup voting as early as seven days after the February 2 election day, but the EC argued that it could not rush, for fear that the budget for holding the new rounds of voting would end up being wasted.

Eventually, the EC set April 20 and 27 as the dates for new rounds of voting to fix the problems that occurred on the main election day and on advance voting day, respectively. The EC reasoned that by that time, the situation could improve based on signs that both sides may be willing to hold talks.

But the two new rounds of voting will not solve all the problems that must be tackled to allow the House to convene its first meeting, because the EC does not know yet how to deal with the 28 constituencies where candidacy registrations were blocked. The EC and the government are still squabbling as to whether the government should issue a new decree or the EC should issue an announcement to open new candidacy registrations for the 28 constituencies.

Taking the very optimistic view, if all election problems are fixed following the April 27 election and all sides accept the election results, it will take 30 more days for the House to convene its first meeting and the formation of a coalition government would take 30 more days.

This means it will be June before the new government can take office, so this caretaker government will have been an acting administration for six months since the House dissolution on December 9. A caretaker government's average term is four months.

But that timeframe is based on a very optimistic view. Actually, after the April 27 round of voting is held, the election will not be complete, because of the problem regarding the no-candidate constituencies. If the EC takes the maximum 180 days from February 2 to complete the election as allowed by the Constitution, it will be October before a new government takes office. So, the Yingluck caretaker government will have been in office for about a year.

The problem is that a caretaker government is under a lot of restrictions. The Constitution prohibits it from doing anything that will affect the next government. So, the caretaker administration will have to seek approval from the EC before it can reshuffle senior government officials in the mid-year and end-of-fiscal-year transfers.

The most serious problem is related to the budget. The caretaker government cannot draft and enact the 2015 fiscal year budget bill. And now the caretaker government's immediate problem is to find money to pay its debt to farmers. Without a new government, a budget could not be drawn upon to pay farmers who joined the rice-pledging scheme.

The caretaker administration and the People's Democratic Reform Committee may not feel anything about the protracted political war. But the people will not be able to tolerate it, because as the clock ticks away, the water level will rise and eventually drown all Thais.


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