BANGKOK – Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Friday threw a decision on whether to delay a general election due to deadly political unrest back to the prime minister and the election commission.
The court ruled that the February 2 vote could be postponed but said it was the joint responsibility of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the chairman of the Election Commission to make the decision.
Yingluck is under intense pressure to step down after nearly three months of street rallies aimed at ousting her elected government and installing an unelected “people’s council”.
Nine 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.
The main opposition party is boycotting the February election, while protesters have vowed to disrupt voting, saying reforms are needed to tackle corruption and vote-buying before polls are held in around a year to 18 months.
The government previously rejected the Election Commission’s call to postpone the polls, noting 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.
On Thursday, protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban threatened to “close every route” to polling stations, saying the election would not be allowed to take place.
Some constituencies have no candidates because demonstrators blocked registrations, so even if Yingluck’s party wins it may not have enough MPs to appoint a government.
The kingdom has been periodically rocked by political bloodshed since her older brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, was overthrown by royalist generals in a coup more than seven years ago.
The demonstrators have staged a self-styled “shutdown” of Bangkok since January 13, erecting roadblocks and rally stages at several main intersections including in the main hotel and shopping districts, although attendance has gradually fallen since last week.
The government on Tuesday declared a 60-day state of emergency in Bangkok and surrounding areas to deal with the unrest.