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Thai Election Commission ponders new poll rerun

Written by: Staff

Bangkok, Apr 24 : Thailand's Election Commission will decide today whether to hold a third round of voting for 13 empty seats which are preventing parliament from meeting and prolonging a constitutional crisis.

By-elections held yesterday aimed to fill 40 seats left empty after the April 2 snap general election which was boycotted by the opposition and forced Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to announce he would step aside.

But 13 seats remained unfilled, mainly in southern opposition strongholds where ruling party candidates running unopposed due to the boycott failed to win the required 20 percent of the eligible vote.

EC Secretary-General Ekachai Warunprapa said there was enough time to hold another round of voting before the May 2 constitutional deadline for parliament to meet within 30 days of national elections.

''Whether the commission will hold a new round of voting will depend on the four members of the Election Commission,'' he told reporters.

Unless all 500 of parliament's seats are filled, it cannot convene, no new prime minister can be elected to replace Thaksin and no new government can be formed.

Thaksin, whose victory in the April 2 elections was undermined by the opposition boycott and mass street protests, has already handed over day-to-day power to his deputy Chidchai Vanasatidya.

Around half the 40 seats were contested yestterday only by Thaksin's Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party and the 20 percent rule is tough in a region where the government is unpopular.

Of the 13 unfilled seats, two are in the far south where more than 1,100 people have been killed in a two-year separatist insurgency in the Malay-speaking region which is home to most of Buddhist Thailand's six million Muslims.

Some analysts say they cannot see unopposed Thai Rak Thai candidates mustering the required number of votes no matter how many by-elections are held in the Muslim south where Thaksin's government is accused of failing to tackle separatist violence.

Investors appeared to shrug off Sunday's inconclusive by-elections, with the main stock index edging up 0.4 percent ahead of the corporate earnings season.

But analysts say a prolonged political deadlock would hurt the economy in the medium and long term.


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