BANGKOK – Yingluck’s embattled government on Saturday said it would put off the February 2 snap polls if political rivals end their protests, but a top opposition leader rebuffed the proposal and said demonstrations will continue to press for reforms.
“The election should be postponed on condition that the protesters cease their rallies and there is no blockade or boycott of the election,” said Varathep Rattanakorn, an official from caretaker premier Yingluck Shinawatra’s office.
“If there are still attempts to interrupt the election, there is no use in postponing it.”
Yingluck had been informed of a decision by the Constitutional Court yesterday, which unanimously ruled that the snap polls can be postponed, Varathep said.
The premier, who is to meet the Election Commissioner on Tuesday, said the ruling seemed to have no solid legal basis.
But the protesters rejected the terms set by the government for postponing the polls.
“This isn’t about compromise,” protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban said. “The people will never go home because what the people want is political and national reform.”
In a key development, Election Commissioner Theerawat Theerarojwit said the poll panel believes the vote should be postponed.
“As for the February 2 election, I don’t believe it can be held,” he told reporters. “It won’t be able to be held because if there are elections on that day people could get hurt, and the (Elections Commission) doesn’t want people to get hurt.”
Yingluck is facing intense pressure from protesters who occupied key intersections here and tried to shut down government offices.
The debate over postponing snap polls comes as the country prepared for advance voting on Sunday which the protesters said they would block.
A section of voting will take place tomorrow in some places ahead of February 2 polls.
About 2.16 million of the total 49 million eligible voters have applied for advanced voting.
The protesters, who launched their anti-government campaign in November, have been demanding that Yingluck should step down and make way for an unelected “People’s Council” to carry reforms before any polls.
Suthep, leader of the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC), earlier said protesters will not “block” but “oppose” voting when advance polling starts tomorrow.
“We will not block the election but we will persuade everyone in front of polling stations to jointly reform Thailand instead of exercising their voting rights,” he said yesterday.
Suthep, who has been leading the protests for nearly three months, said demonstrators will campaign for national reform before elections.
He yesterday wrote a letter to US President Barack Obama, saying his fight against the government is “pro-democracy”.
Suthep said another letter was sent to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to explain that his movement was “not conducting an antidemocratic uprising”.