Thailand’s Constitutional Court on Friday annulled last month’s general election, leaving the country in political limbo without a full government and further undermining a prime minister faced with impeachment over a failed rice subsidy scheme.
The court judges ruled in a 6 to 3 vote that the Feb. 2 election was unconstitutional because voting failed to take place on the same day around the country.
Government protesters had stopped voting in about a fifth of constituencies, and in 28 of them voting was not possible at all because candidates were unable to register.
The protests are the latest chapter in an eight-year crisis that pits Bangkok’s middle class and royalist establishment against supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by the army in 2006 and lives in exile to avoid a jail term for graft.
Over the past five months, the protesters have shut government offices and at times blocked major thoroughfares in Bangkok to try to force Yingluck out. Twenty-three people have died and hundreds have been injured in the violence.
The number of protesters has dwindled in recent weeks and the streets have been relatively calm since several big protest camps were shut at the start of March, allowing the government to lift a state of emergency on Wednesday.
But the focus has shifted to the courts, in particular to the prospect of Yingluck being impeached over a rice scheme that has gone disastrously wrong, with hundreds of thousands of farmers not getting paid for grain sold to the state since October.
“Independent agencies are being quite obvious that they want to remove her and her entire cabinet to create a power vacuum, claim that elections can’t be held and then nominate a prime minister of their choice,” said Kan Yuenyong, a political analyst at the Siam Intelligence Unit, referring to the courts and the anti-corruption commission.
“If they run with this plan, then the government’s supporters will fight back and the next half of the year will be much worse than what we saw in the first half,” he said.
Thaksin’s “red shirt” supporters, who are strong in the north and northeast, are beginning to sound more militant, raising the prospect of more violence if Yingluck is forced out by the courts, the anti-corruption commission or by other
The National Anti-Corruption Commission could recommend impeachment in coming days, probably by March 31.
She could then be removed from office by the upper house Senate, which is likely to have an anti-Thaksin majority after an election for half its members on March 30.
Some analysts say it will fall to the Senate to continued…