May 2, 2006

No decision on Thai election before mid-May

By Nopporn Wong-Anan

BANGKOK (Reuters) - A top Thai court said on Tuesday 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

"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 on Monday 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 on Tuesday:

"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 on
Monday to organize a defense against charges it mishandled the

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

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

(Additional reporting by Panarat Thepgumpanat)