Truckload of trouble for Thai Rak Thai

Friday, July 7, 2006

Yesterday saw Thailand's Attorney General file charges of election fraud with the country's Constitutional court. According to Sondhi Limthongkul's ThaiDay, the action seeking the dissolution of five parties was delivered by truck and consisted of over 120,000 pages of legal citations.

Both the Thai Rak Thai party making up the caretaker government and the main opposition Democrats are named. The allegations centre on claims that Thai Rak Thai paid minor parties to participate where seats would otherwise be unopposed, and that the Democrats may have bribed parties to claim that they had been paid by Thai Rak Thai.

Thailand's prolonged political crisis originally stemmed from repeated corruption allegations against the Prime Minister, Thaksin Shinawatra. An April 2nd snap election apparently intended to cement the ruling party's position and dismiss critics as unrepresentative backfired when the three main opposition parties announced a boycott. This left many seats unopposed, particularly in the country's troubled Muslim south. With Thai Rak Thai standing alone in strong Democrat territory, a grassroots abstention campaign left many seats empty when they failed to garner the constitutionally required 20% of eligible votes.

Amongst all the political posturing, and allegations that the Election Commission had unduly favoured the ruling party, claims that there had been irregularities surfaced. Thai Rak Thai was accused of having paid minor parties to circumvent the 20% rule by offering token opposition. The claims were brought before the Election Commission who eventually handed the case over to the Attorney General without offering any recommendation. The commission's sub-committee that prepared the report had recommended the dissolution of Thai Rak Thai.

At present it is unclear if the political crisis will be resolved through the country's legal system prior to the upcoming October election rerun. The volume of evidence may leave the Constitutional Court unable to agree on a ruling prior to the election.

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