Thai govt wants Feb election to go ahead
28 January 2014, 13:45
Bangkok - Thailand's government wants a controversial general election to go ahead this weekend, a deputy prime minister said, despite threats by opposition protesters to disrupt the polls.
"We insist that the election on 2 February must be held because the majority of people want the election", Surapong Tovichakchaikul told reporters, speaking ahead of a meeting between the prime minister and the Election Commission, which wants to delay the vote.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has faced nearly three months of mass street demonstrations demanding her elected government step down to make way for an unelected "people's council" that would oversee reforms aimed at curbing the dominance of her billionaire family.
The opposition Democrats are boycotting the February polls, saying reforms are needed to ensure the election is truly democratic and to prevent abuse of power by the next government.
Close polling stations
Advance voting on Sunday was marred by widespread disruption by opposition protesters, who besieged polling stations and stopped hundreds of thousands from casting ballots.
Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban has threatened to "close every route" to polling stations again for the 2 February general election, raising fears of further violence.
Ten people have been killed and hundreds injured in grenade attacks, drive-by shootings and street clashes since the protests began at the end of October.
Yingluck is due to meet election authorities on Tuesday to discuss a possible delay to the election, after the Constitutional Court ruled that the polls could legally be pushed back because of the civil strife.
But the comments by her deputy, made after a cabinet meeting, indicated little enthusiasm for a delay, which the government fears would only prolong the political deadlock.
The government notes that under the constitution an election should normally be held no more than 60 days after the dissolution of parliament, which happened in early December.
The kingdom has been bitterly divided since Yingluck's older brother, the then-prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was overthrown by royalist generals in a coup more than seven years ago.
Critics accuse the billionaire tycoon-turned-politician of controlling his sister's government from Dubai, where he lives to avoid prison for a corruption conviction.