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Politics

Court voids Thai election, keeping country in political vacuum

BANGKOK -- The Constitutional Court nullified last month's general election Friday, ensuring that Thailand will continue to lack effective leadership for some time.

     The Feb. 2 lower house vote was voided because anti-government protesters disrupted it. Although the court decision means that a fresh election must be held, Bangkok demonstrators who have continued to call for the ouster of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra have vowed to disrupt the new vote as well.

     Yingluck has led a caretaker government with limited powers since dissolving the lower house in early December. Severe restrictions on the government's authority to implement policies and spend money have already begun to take a toll on public works projects, investment deals in need of approval, and other areas. With the turmoil sure to drag on, the central bank on Friday downgraded its gross domestic product forecast for 2014 from 3% to 2.7%.

     But the security situation is no longer deteriorating. And customers have started coming back to retailers and the nation's tourism industry, which accounts for 10% of GDP. The government can be seen trying to prevent the turmoil from hurting the economy, and demonstrators have gradually scaled down their protest activities. This has given rise to optimism that businesses will not be severely impacted despite the political chaos.

     In last month's vote, demonstrators arguing that political reform should take priority over an election disrupted the vote in Bangkok and the south. Many people could not cast their ballots, and votes could not be counted, so the results have yet to be finalized even a month and a half later.

     Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister and a leader of the anti-government movement, said the election will be disrupted nationwide if it is held again. The opposition Democrat Party, which controlled a third of the seats before the lower house was dissolved, had boycotted the February vote, expressing support for the demonstrators' calls for political reform ahead of the poll.

     Meanwhile, the ruling Pheu Thai Party, which supports Yingluck and her brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said in a statement that it does not recognize a court decision that gives an advantage to a group that opposes democracy.

 

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