Supachai signals polling delay if strife continues

Supachai signals polling delay if strife continues

The general election tentatively planned for July 20 may have to be postponed if political tensions escalate, Election Commission (EC) chairman Supachai Somcharoen warned yesterday.

“The political situation is being monitored closely," Mr Supachai said. "If it is not possible to hold the election on July 20, then the date must be deferred.”

However, the EC chairman insisted an election will take place despite the ambiguity hanging over the poll date.

It comes amid fears of clashes as the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) moved up its 11th "final battle" against the government from next week, with the pro-government red shirts also scheduling a rally in Bangkok today.

Mr Supachai said the EC still intends discuss poll arrangements with the government, pointing to a meeting with caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Phongthep Thepkanchana set for 2pm on Monday.

Commanders of all three military branches, along with officials involved in national security issues, are also invited to the talks, he said.

“I cannot answer when the election date will be; that is the responsibility of election commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn, who is in charge of scheduling the poll,” he added.

Mr Supachai denied claims that the EC had been attempting to delay the poll until after the Constitutional Court and National Anti-Corruption Commission ruled against former premier Yingluck Shinawatra.

The charter court on Wednesday stripped Ms Yingluck and nine of her cabinet ministers of their powers for their role in the transfer of a senior official in 2011, while the NACC on Thursday recommended the former premier be retroactively impeached for her role in the rice-pledging scheme.

Mr Supachai said the election delay was caused by debate between the EC and the Council of the State, the government's legal arm, over whether the EC has the power to postpone the poll if the political situation becomes too unstable.

The issue should be settled before any further actions are taken, he said.

"If the polling is rushed, then a lot of money will be lost. People will blame the EC again,” the chairman warned, referring to the 3.8 billion baht spent staging the since-nullified Feb 2 election.

Mr Supachai said he was not surprised that the EC was the target of criticism from both sides, saying the poll agency was an easy scapegoat for anyone who fails to achieve their political goals.

He also refused to hold talks with the PDRC, saying the protest group is a political force and should talk only with other political forces.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai spokesperson Prompong Nopparit and party legal adviser Pichit Chuenbaan have insisted that acting caretaker Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Bunsongpaisarn is legally qualified to draft a royal decree for a new election.

Mr Pichit said the remaining members of cabinet who have not been stripped of their powers still have the right to manage the country according to Section 181 of the constitution.

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