EC insists it has no power to postpone polls

The Election Commission will continue with preparations for the general election set for Feb 2, despite growing pressure from demonstrators to put it on hold until reforms are in place.

Election officials are forced to use Din Daeng police station to register party-list candidates on Monday after protesters blocked the official venue at the nearby Thai-Japanese sports stadium. (Photo by Thiti Wannamontha)

Commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said on Tuesday that the polling date remains unchanged, because it was announced in the Royal Gazette.

"We only obey orders,'' Mr Somchai told Chulalongkorn Radio, referring to the EC's duty to act in accordance with the gazetted announcement.

Whether or not to defer the election is a political decision, not the EC's, said Mr Somchai, who oversees election administration. The EC does not have the authority to postpone the election, he said.

Having taken office less than two weeks ago, the new commission faces a daunting task in holding the election at a time of deep political divisions, with the People's Democratic Reform Committee leading huge rallies demanding reform before taking the nation to the polls and the Pheu Thai Party and its allied United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship claiming the election should go ahead to allow voters to decide the future of the country.

PDRC leader Suthep Thaugsuban on Monday night renewed his attack on the EC for pushing ahead with the election, and warned of legal consequences if the poll is held without the consent of the people.

Senator Wanchai Sornsiri, interviewed on FM 101 news, warned of possible violence and chaos if the election continues against the desire of the people.

The senator, who backs reform, and Mr Suthep both say the EC can change the election date if proceeding with it could lead to trouble.

Mr Somchai said what the EC can do is to defer the voting day in areas considered unsafe for voters, if  there were signs of violence.

"In that case, we could order that voting be delayed for a few days or a week at most," he said.

The protesters demand reform including measures to end vote-buying to have a new election clean with winning candidates truly representing voters.

As the former leader of the People's Network for Elections in Thailand campaigning for clean elections, Mr Somchai said he would be satisfied if the next election could see a reduction in vote buying of 20%.

The EC hopes activists and non-governmental organisations will help monitor election day in an attempt to curb vote buying, he added.

The election process began on Monday, with immediate hassles for the new EC as protesters blocked political parties wanting to register their party-list candidates at the the official venue, the Thai-Japan sports stadium in Din Daeng. Party-list registration will close on Friday.

The EC will decide on moving the venue  and maybe extending the registration period to give parties more opportunity to submits their lists if the stadium remains locked up by the demonstrators, Mr Somchai said. But that would need an announcement in the Royal Gazette, he added.

Related search: election, ec, election commission, protest, vote-buying, p-net, pdrc, pheu thai, somchai srisuthiyakorn, suthep thaugsuban

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