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Thailand’s fractious parties to discuss new elections

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Published : 2014-04-22 21:03
Updated : 2014-04-22 21:03

BANGKOK (AFP) ― Thailand’s quarreling political parties are to meet Tuesday to discuss a road map to fresh elections following months of deadly street protests aimed at toppling Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The kingdom has been without a fully functioning government or parliament since December, and an election held in February was declared invalid after opposition demonstrators disrupted voting.

The Southeast Asian nation has been shaken by months of political violence that has left 25 people dead and hundreds wounded, including many protesters, in grenade attacks and shootings.

Election officials called a meeting for Tuesday to discuss a new election date with political rivals including the main opposition Democrat Party, which boycotted the last round of voting.

But on the eve of the meeting, Yingluck’s Puea Thai Party decried a “conspiracy” by her opponents to thwart new polls.

In a statement, the party said certain groups and political parties “don’t want democracy” and are seeking to create a political vacuum so they can appoint their own unelected leader.

Puea Thai says the constitution requires new elections to be held 45-60 days after the Constitutional Court’s annulment of the previous vote, which took effect on March 27.

But Yingluck, who won a landslide election victory in 2011, could be removed from office within weeks in connection with two legal cases under consideration by the Constitutional Court and an anticorruption panel.

Thailand’s first female premier is accused of the alleged improper transfer of a top civil servant as well as dereliction of duty linked to a loss-making rice subsidy scheme that critics say is infested with corruption.

Her supporters see the moves as an attempted power grab.

The backdrop is an eight-year struggle between a royalist establishment ― supported by parts of the judiciary and the military ― and Yingluck’s family, which has traditionally enjoyed strong support in the northern half of Thailand.

Yingluck’s “Red Shirt” supporters have vowed to take to the streets for the legal rulings to defend her embattled administration, raising fears of a bloody new chapter in Thailand’s long political crisis.

The opposition protesters accuse her family of nepotism and corruption and want her to resign to make way for an unelected “people’s council” to oversee political reforms.

They have vowed to purge the kingdom of the influence of her brother Thaksin Shinawatra, who looms large over Thai politics from self-exile in Dubai, where he lives to avoid prison for a corruption conviction.

Thailand has been rocked by years of rival protests by supporters and foes of Thaksin, who was ousted by royalist generals in a coup in 2006.

The opposition has said that elections without reforms first will not solve the political stalemate.

But Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva hinted ahead of Tuesday’s talks that there could be room for compromise, describing the meeting as “the most opportune time to put aside our party views and put our country first.”

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