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Top Thai court likely to void April 2 poll- Report

Written by: Staff

BANGKOK, May 6: Thailand's Constitutional Court will probably nullify the inconclusive April 2 general election by a narrow majority when it meets on Monday, the Nation newspaper said.

Quoting a source close to the deliberations of the 14-judge court, the English-language paper said today eight or nine of the judges were likely to vote to scrap the snap poll, which has plunged Thailand into constitutional crisis.

The court decides on the basis of a simple majority.

The paper said heated debate had centred on four key legal issues -- the scheduling of the poll, whether the positioning of ballot booths had violated voter privacy, the alleged bankrolling of small parties by the government and the lack of a formal review of ballot results, the paper said.

Last week, the court agreed to hear pleas from a group of law lecturers demanding the election to be scrapped.

During the hearing, the Election Commission denied it had committed irregularities in holding the snap poll, which was called three years early by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to counter a Bangkok-based street campaign against him.

After the poll, which revealed a strong protest vote and left Thaksin unable to form a government, the former telecoms tycoon announced he was taking a ''political break'' and passed day-to-day work to his deputy, Chidchai Vanasatidya.

In a rare intervention, revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej ordered the courts to sort out the ''mess'' although it remains unclear how scrapping the election will solve the issue.

The opposition, who boycotted the April 2 poll, have said they will not return to the political process until the 1997 constitution has been amended to include further checks and balances on the office of the prime minister.

The anti-Thaksin street campaign has also said it will start its protests anew if the prime minister, who has still not officially given up his position, makes a comeback.

Thaksin stepped back into the public eye yesterday, leading cabinet ministers at an audience with the king to mark Coronation Day, and hosting a gala dinner at Government House, the first time he has set foot in his old office for nearly a month.

He waved to reporters but declined to make any comment.

Aides said the appearances did not point to Thaksin going back on his promise to stand aside from politics.

''This does not signal anything political. Thaksin has to lead the two events because he is still prime minister,'' Prommin Lertsuridej, secretary to the prime minister, told Reuters.


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