BANGKOK – Thai officials said they will hold elections in late April for districts where parliamentary voting was disrupted by anti-government activists on February 2.
The Election Commission said the re-run of the vote will take place on April 27, leaving Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra in charge of a caretaker government with limited spending powers for at least two and a half more months.
Much of normal government business has been paralysed since the protesters took over parts of Bangkok in November, and the drift has been compounded since Yingluck dissolved parliament in December and became head of a caretaker administration.
The authority of a caretaker government to initiate new spending and political programmes is limited, and there is confusion in Bangkok about the constitutional powers of different branches of government.
Highlighting the uncertainty, Election Commissioner Somchai had told Reuters earlier that there were doubts over the legality of restaging voting and the whole election might have to be voided and re-run.
The drift and deadlock has also started to affect spending plans, raising concerns that it could drag on the economy.
The World Bank highlighted worries about delays to much-needed infrastructure policies, although it still sees the economy growing 4 percent this year – a more optimistic reading than Thailand’s central bank, which has slashed its growth forecast to 3 percent and warned it could be worse if the protests drag on.
Elsewhere in the Thai capital Monday, hundreds of farmers rallied outside Thailand’s Justice Ministry in Bangkok to demand overdue payment for rice sold in a government subsidy program.
In recent weeks, big banks have refused to extend bridging loans to help fund the programme, unconvinced the government has the authority to seek them, while China has cancelled a government-to-government rice deal due to a corruption probe.
Finance Minister Kittirat Na Ranong said the farmers would get paid but appealed for time to arrange bank financing.
“The government believes it could complete the rice loan in a few days’ time,” he told reporters ahead of a cabinet meeting. “We need to reassure financial institutions that the rice loan will not breach the law.”
Under an interim administration the Election Commission is in charge of approving certain government spending from the central budget.
The rice subsidy program, along with other populist policies, won the support of farmers, which helped Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s party a landslide election in 2011.