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Thai Crisis Deepens as Court Says Disrupted Election Invalid

Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled February’s general election invalid, in a further roadblock to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s efforts to form a new government.

The judges voted six to three today that the Feb. 2 poll, which was boycotted by the main opposition party and disrupted by protesters, was unconstitutional because voting could not take place in 28 of 375 constituencies on that day. “Holding an election for the 28 constituencies after February 2 cannot be done,” the court said in a statement.

The ruling leaves the Yingluck administration stuck in a caretaker role with limited powers. Yingluck called fresh elections in December in a bid to defuse street protests aimed at replacing her government with an unelected council.

Thailand’s Troubled Democracy

The opposition Democrat Party refused to take part in the poll while the protesters, led by former Democrat powerbroker Suthep Thaugsuban, blocked candidates from registering in some areas. That left the election incomplete and Yingluck’s government and the Election Commission at odds about how to proceed. A new vote may take at least three months to organize, said Suphachai Somcharoen, the commission’s president.

Verapat Pariyawong, a Harvard-trained lawyer and independent political analyst, said there were solutions provided in the constitution to resolve such disruptions.

“The reasoning of the court is paving ways for anyone to have the power to nullify an entire election simply by obstructing candidates from registering in a single district,” Verapat said by e-mail.

‘Ready to Join’

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva declined to say whether the party would boycott a new poll.

“We want the election to be smooth and acceptable,” Abhisit told reporters today. “If it can happen, we are ready to join. We can’t answer whether we will take a break again.”

The central bank today cut its economic growth forecast for this year for a fourth time since October. The Bank of Thailand said the economy may expand 2.7 percent, and warned that growth may be even slower unless political tensions ease in the first half of the year.

“Thailand’s generally strong macroeconomic fundamentals may weaken further,” Agost Benard, associate director of sovereign ratings at Standard & Poor’s, said by e-mail. Growth may slow further “due to the combined effect of depressed private sector investment and the caretaker government’s inability to implement policies,” he said.

Too Tense

The past five elections have been won by parties allied with Yingluck’s brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup. The Democrats have not won a national election in more than two decades.

Suthep vowed yesterday to disrupt any elections held before his group’s political changes are enacted. The protesters want to rewrite the political rules to remove what they say is the Shinawatra family’s influence.

The Election Commission had called on the government to delay the February poll, warning the political situation was too tense for the vote to be held peacefully. Yingluck’s government had accused the commission of trying to undermine the election.

“In my own opinion, the new election date should not be set before all political parties have held talks and reached agreement,” the Election Commission’s Suphachai said.

To contact the reporters on this story: Chris Blake in Bangkok at cblake28@bloomberg.net; Anuchit Nguyen in Bangkok at anguyen@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rosalind Mathieson at rmathieson3@bloomberg.net Tony Jordan

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