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Thai Supreme Court to Rule on Parliament Formation (sounds like a Constitutional Crisis?)
Thailand's Election Commission said national polls would go ahead next month, but in a potential blow for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the Supreme Court would determine whether a new parliament can form after protesters blocked candidate registrations in dozens of electoral districts.
The independent commission's move effectively sets up another confrontation between one of this Buddhist kingdom's most powerful traditional power centers and the supporters of Thaksin Shinawatra, the populist leader ousted in a military coup in 2006. Protesters accuse Mr. Thaksin of continuing to run Thailand through his sister, Ms. Yingluck. Thailand's judiciary brought down two pro-Thaksin prime ministers in 2008. Judges barred one from office for illegally receiving payments for hosting a television cooking show and dissolved another government for alleged vote-buying.
This time, the Supreme Court will rule whether election candidates in 28 constituencies should be considered properly registered after protesters, aiming to scuttle the vote, barricaded registration centers for several days in southern Thailand, a hotbed of support for the protest movement.
The blockades potentially could delay the reopening of parliament or even void the Feb. 2 vote if fewer than 95% of seats in the lower house are filled. By Wednesday's registration deadline, candidates were registered in only 94% of the 500 seats in the lower house.
Election Commission Secretary-General Puchong Nutrawong said the Supreme Court would rule whether candidates who were denied access to the registration centers should be regarded as formally registered candidates. It is unclear when the court will consider the case.
For more than two months, mostly middle-class protesters have taken to the streets of Bangkok in a bid to overthrow Ms. Yingluck's government and replace it with an unelected council. Their leader, Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister, argues that free-spending policies such as tax rebates and multibillion-dollar subsidies are a form of corruption designed to buy the Shinawatra clan large majorities in parliament.
Ms. Yingluck, though, says the policies are good economics and are designed to boost consumer spending, especially in comparatively poorer areas of north and northeastThailand.
Mr. Suthep is planning his biggest protest yet on Jan. 13, when he has vowed to shut down the city. He plans to drum up support for the initiative by marching around Bangkok with his followers on Sunday. Previous one-day rallies have attracted crowds of up to 200,000 people, but this time Mr. Suthep aims to sustain the protest for a week or more.
A rival protest group known as the Red Shirts, which broadly supports the Shinawatra clan's policies, aims to stage its own rallies across Thailand, triggering fears of a worsening confrontation after seven people died in political clashes last month.
The country's financial markets have swooned amid the growing tension, with the Thai currency falling to a 33.00 baht to the dollar, a fresh three-year low, while the country's army chief last month refused to rule out staging another coup to restore order.
Photographs: Puchong Nutrawong, head of Thailand's Election Commission, on Thursday in Bangkok. Associated Press
Source: On Line Wall Street Journal
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