Nation needs peaceful poll

Nation needs peaceful poll

Although the election is less than three weeks away, the atmosphere usually characterised by campaign rallies and candidate posters dotting every power pole in Bangkok is barely being felt.

The only visible sign of the approaching poll is the campaign posters of the Pheu Thai Party, although their numbers are unusually small.

The dampened election atmosphere is also being reported throughout the rest of the country, although in the Northeast members of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship have been actively campaigning for voters to turn out in force at the Feb 2 polls.

It appears the public and most candidates have lost interest in the election, as they are preoccupied with the anti-government protests led by the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

Even the Election Commission (EC), which is responsible for organising the poll, is reluctant to stage the election on Feb 2 for fear it will be messy and violent.

After having experienced the violence during the candidacy registration period last month _ in which one protester and one policeman were killed and scores wounded _ and protests in several southern provinces which rendered registration impossible in 28 constituencies, the EC proposed to caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra that the election be delayed.

The prime minister and the heavyweights in the Pheu Thai Party have repeatedly rejected the EC's proposal. In recent days, the government has offered to discuss delaying the poll, but has been spurned by the PDRC.

After a meeting to discuss a postponement failed to draw key opposition figures yesterday, Ms Yingluck reiterated the Feb 2 election would go ahead, again claiming there is no legal basis to postpone it.

The EC, however, said it might take the case to the Constitution Court to rule on whether the commission or the government has the ultimate authority to delay the election.

The EC is not alone in its push to have the poll postponed. Justice permanent secretary Kittipong Kittayarak has emerged as a strong advocate for a delayed election. Writing on his Facebook page, Mr Kittipong not only said the election should be postponed by three to six months, he also proposed a "neutral forum" made up of people recognised for their impartiality to serve as the start of a dialogue process.

Mr Kittipong pointed out that reform would hardly be possible amid the deep mutual distrust that exists between the government and the PDRC.

To address this problem, he suggested the government should not play host to any reform forum but should instead remain just a stakeholder.

He also proposed a legally binding guarantee to ensure the reform plan worked out by the "neutral forum" is implemented by the new government which is formed after the next election.

Mr Kittipong maintained the big question facing the country is not just the issues of elections and reform, but also the root cause of political conflict _ namely a political system which is not conducive to reconciliation and has the tendency to lead to more social unrest.

Mr Kittipong's opinion represents a voice of sensibility and impartiality in the midst of hateful rhetoric, war cries and childishness. His opinion is worthy of consideration by both the government and the PDRC if the the country is to be spared further violence.

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