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No decision on Thai election before mid-May

Written by: Staff
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BANGKOK, May 2: A top Thai court today said it would probably take until the middle of May to decide whether to annul the inconclusive April 2 snap general election which plunged the country into a major constitutional crisis.

But with three courts, all with overlapping areas of authority, now involved in the deliberations, there was no clear indication when a way out of the impasse might be found.

Political opponents of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra threatened to revive streets protests that forced the premier to yield day-to-day power last month. They fear new elections might herald a comeback by Thaksin, accused by critics of corruption.

''The crisis has been caused by Thaksin and we will continue our political reform campaign to keep Thaksin and people in his regime out of politics,'' Pipob Thongchai, one of the five protest leaders, told a Bangkok radio station.

The five reported to police yesterday to answer questions about accusations they were trying to overthrow the government through unconstitutional means and inciting unrest.

No charges have been brought against them, but they will have to report to police again next Monday. Pipob said a rally planned for a Bangkok park on Tuesday evening would give the courts moral support in their attempt to solve the crisis.

One court, which rules on the legality of government actions, said in a statement issued today.

''The Administrative Court will start its hearing procedure and come to a verdict very soon and it is expected by the middle of May.'' Another top court, the Constitutional Court, is also hearing cases stemming from the election, which was boycotted by the main opposition parties and left parliament unable to meet to elect a new prime minister and form a new government.

The Constitutional Court has given no clue to when it might issue a verdict, but gave the Election Commission three days yesterday to organise a defence against charges it mishandled the election.

However, the courts are under pressure to come up with a swift answer after King Bhumibol Adulyadej summoned their chiefs last week and told them to sort out the ''mess''.

Prime Minister Thaksin called the elections to show his rural popularity to Bangkok's middle classes who had taken to the streets in their thousands to accuse him of corruption and abuse of power, charges he denied.

However, his Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love Thais) party won fewer votes than in the previous election in February last year, his second landslide victory.

The substantial number of abstentions, effectively a vote against Thaksin, prompted him to say he would not be a candidate for prime minister when parliament did meet.

Thaksin, who is still officially prime minister despite handing over day-to-day power to a deputy, arrived back from a foreign tour on Sunday but, unusually, has made no public comments.

However, acting Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasatidya said on Sunday that if the courts nullified the April 2 result, Thaksin would not be bound by his pledge not to run for the premiership.

REUTERS

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