Newspaper article International New York Times

Opposition Hit by Setback in Push to Nullify Election

Newspaper article International New York Times

Opposition Hit by Setback in Push to Nullify Election

Article excerpt

A petition to nullify Thailand's general election was rejected by the country's ombudsman.

A petition to nullify Thailand's general election was rejected Friday on procedural grounds by the country's ombudsman, a setback for the opposition Democrat Party, which is allied with protesters trying to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

But a related petition that the party filed to the country's Constitutional Court was still pending, and the fate of the election remained uncertain after protesters blocked registration and voting in Bangkok and southern Thailand.

Nearly a week after the Feb. 2 election, there are contradictory signals about which side has the upper hand in Thailand's debilitating power struggle.

The Yingluck government has been weakened by its inability to pay farmers as part of a failed rice subsidy policy that the opposition says is emblematic of the governing party's wasteful populist policies. On Thursday, a prominent aristocrat who took part in the military-installed government after the 2006 coup called on Ms. Yingluck to step down, something that the government says is impossible until a new government is formed.

The Election Commission, meanwhile, has yet to announce a detailed plan to allow the completion of the election.

But there are also signs of weakness in the protest movement, which in recent weeks tried and failed to "shut down" Bangkok. The evolution of the movement from an anticorruption crusade to a group that is aggressively blocking elections has sidelined some erstwhile supporters. And a gun battle on the eve of elections -- in which gunmen allied with the protesters shot at would-be voters -- has blunted the protest leaders' message that they are peaceful and unarmed. Government supporters have sought to capitalize on that incident, which has spawned a catchphrase: "We wanted ballots but we got bullets."

Protesters are still blocking a number of key intersections in Bangkok, but they have retreated from other areas and attendance at the protests appears to be waning, especially during the day. …

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