Somchai: End political conflict first

All sides must help resolve the long-standing political conflict so that society will not again show opposition to an election in such a large numbers as occurred on Feb 2, election commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn said on Monday.

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Mr Somchai, who is in charge of election management, said if the problems were not solved the electoral process would never be completed, regardless of how many fresh rounds of voting were held.

Because of the protests, voting was prevented at 10,283 polling units in a total of 67 constituencies in 18 provinces.

On comments from government-bloc politicianss that the EC was duty-bound to organise voting at the polling units where there were problems in seven days, Mr Somchai said the seven-day period should apply to natural problems, such as flooding, but not in the case of political problems to which there is no end in sight.

A new round of voting should be held only after the political problems had been resolved, including the problem with advance voting, which could not be held at many polling units on Jan 26.

"As long as the political problems have not been solved, a new round of voting would eventually run into obstacles,  just as it has before," Mr Somchai said.

He suggested that a new round of voting be delayed until the problems had been resolved.  The delay might be one month, or longer.

Although the law requires a fresh round of voting no later than 180 days from Feb 2, the delay might be longer than 180 days because nobody knew what would happen.

It was not that the EC had not tried to overcome the problems, but because the situation was beyond the EC's control, Mr Somchai said.

On the issue of the 28 constituencies in the South where there were no candidates registered, Mr Somchai said there are two big questions.  One, whether a new round of registration of candidates could be held, and whether this would require another royal decree.

Question No 2 is whether the new round of candidacy registration in the 28 constituencies should be delayed until the political situation has calmed down.

On the problem of the 16 constituencies with only one candidate, Mr Somchai said there is a legal way out of it by holding the second and third rounds of the election without having to wait for the situation to improve.

In an uncontested constituency, the sole candidate must get the support of at least 20% of the total number of eligible registered voters. After the third poll, the sole candidate is declared elected, even without 20% support.

Mr Somchai said the five members of the EC would today meeting to discuss a new round of advance voting in lieu of Jan 26.

Unless results are in from all constituencies, including the party-list vote, the EC cannot declare an election result.

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