Limbo looms over Thailand after protest-marred poll

February 04, 2014 - 7:55:35 am
BANGKOK: Thailand’s protest-plagued elections have ushered in a new chapter of political uncertainty that experts say leaves the embattled government increasingly vulnerable to court intervention or a military coup.

Millions were denied the opportunity to cast ballots on Sunday, with blockades by protesters seeking to prevent the re-election of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra causing the closure of some 10 percent of polling stations.

Hundreds of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets again yesterday for a new protest march through the capital although their numbers were down sharply compared with that before the election.

Election officials said that nearly 46 percent of eligible voters had cast ballots in an election boycotted by the main opposition party. But facing possible vote reruns in nearly a fifth of constituencies, they dampened expectations of a quick result.

That has raised the spectre of weeks of uncertainty in a country where the military and the judiciary have a history of reshaping the political landscape.

Without enough MPs to convene the legislature, even if Yingluck wins she will remain in a caretaker role with limited power over government policy until elections are held in the problem areas.

“She will be untenable as a caretaker who doesn’t have the authority to really run the country,” said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, adding that Yingluck would become “more vulnerable to some kind of ouster.”

“The longer Yingluck is a weakening caretaker prime minister the greater the likelihood that we will see a decision from the independent agencies to break the deadlock,” he said.