Choice to make
Thailand’s main opposition party has yet to decide whether to take part in a snap election called by the government.
Thailand’s main opposition party opened a meeting on Monday to decide whether to take part in a snap election called by the government to defuse street protests, but one senior member said reforms demanded by the protesters should be implemented first.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra called the election after weeks of protests against her and her brother, ousted ex-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and his influence on Thailand’s political system.
The protesters have rejected the election and want to set up a “people’s council” that would eradicate the influence of the “Thaksin regime” and introduce reforms following a decade of election wins by Thaksin or his allies with support from the urban and rural poor.
The protests have also been supported by the main opposition Democrat Party, Thailand’s oldest party. All Democrat lawmakers resigned from parliament this month and some joined the protests, including leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who was prime minister from late 2008 to 2011.
But the party has yet to announce its stand on the Feb 2 election. A boycott by the Democrats would rob the vote of much of its legitimacy and prolong political uncertainty.
Korn Chatikavanij, widely respected as finance minister under Abhisit, said he would not be standing for the party executive at the meeting, which ends on Tuesday. His intentions are not clear and he was not immediately available for comment.
Korn has crossed swords with protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban, another longtime Democrat lawmaker who had stepped down earlier, and has largely stayed away from his rallies, but he played down any differences in a Facebook posting.
I agree with the need for reforms and want to see reforms before elections take place.” KORN CHATIKAVANIJ FORMER FINANCE MINISTER UNDER ABHISIT VEJJAJIVA
“I agree with the need for reforms and want to see reforms before elections take place. ... You know well where I disagree with the protest leaders, but this is a minor issue and doesn’t affect our overall goal,” Korn wrote.
Suthep said reforms, taking in the electoral system, should be pushed through by an unelected “people’s council” of people from various professions plus members nominated by his movement.
The Puea Thai Party of Yingluck Shinawatra, who remains caretaker prime minister until the election, is wellplaced to win again with its bedrock support in the populous rural regions in the north and northeast.
Thailand’s eight-year political conflict centers on Thaksin, a former telecommunications tycoon who won over the rural poor with healthcare and other policies when he was premier. The army ousted him in 2006.
Since 2008, he has chosen to live in exile rather than come home to serve a jail sentence for abuse of power, a charge he calls politically motivated.
Suthep’s protest gained impetus in early November after Yingluck’s government tried to push through a political amnesty bill that would have allowed Thaksin to return home as a free man.
The politically powerful military has rebuffed Suthep’s call for it to intervene on his side and has offered to help hold a “fair and clean” election next year.