General elections called by embattled Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra will press ahead despite fears of violent backlash following weeks of chaotic anti-government protests that shook the capital.
The snap elections will push through said date on February, the Election Commission announced Tuesday. The polls could cement Yingluck’s hold on power after bloody protests calling for her resignation to make way for an unelected “people’s council” and uproot her family’s reign.
The Election Commission proposed during talks with Yingluck to postpone the election for 120 days, but said they agreed on a green light for the February 2 vote.
“We have to go forward with the election. The Election Commission will organize the election under the framework of the constitution and try to avoid any violence,” Deputy Prime Minister Pongthep Thepkanchana told a news conference.
“Even if the election is postponed, the problems will not go way. I don’t think that the movement will stop.”
The main opposition Democrat Party is boycotting Sunday’s polls. Protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban urged supporters to “prepare everything to not allow the election to happen on February 2.”
The commission fears that there might be “clashes” during voting, said election commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn. He added that polling stations would close early in the event of problems.
The government has declared a 60-day state of emergency in the capital and surrounding areas as violence escalated. Ten people have been killed since the protests began and hundreds have been wounded.
By Maesie Bertumen
Image of protester’s sign at a January demonstration: adaptorplug/Flickr