The Nation on the EC and the government:
Both sides looked prepared to win the “debate”, and it appeared to be more of a case of seeking to win it for their side than achieving a victory for the country as a whole.
The side of the caretaker government had the upper hand, since the EC revealed its cards early through the media. It was known before the meeting that if the two sides couldn’t agree, then there couldn’t be a deferment of the election, because at the end of the day, it’s the government that would have to propose a new royal decree for a new election date.
Insiders who discussed the matter with caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra thus insisted that the election would take place on February 2 as scheduled, and the administration would fully support the EC in carrying out its duty.
Questions thrown at the EC during the meeting left it stumped. These included whether, if the election was deferred, the EC could guarantee that the anti-government People’s Democratic Reform Committee’s protest would end, and whether the opposition Democrat Party would withdraw its boycott contest the vote on the later date.
BP: Exactly. If either the PDRC announced they would stop protesting if the election was postponed (they have said postponing is irrelevant to them) OR the Democrats would commit to taking part in a delayed election (Abhisit has only said the Democrats would consider taking part in postponed elections) then the government would come under pressure to delay the election and in BP’s view they should if either if those conditions were met. Neither of these have happened and there is no indication that they will soon. We have had six weeks since the dissolution and we are no closer to any kind of resolution. The election may change this with a (1) less than stellar result for the government motivating the Democrats to try to get the court to quickly nullify the election and for there to be new elections* (although one does then wonder about the rhetoric of reform), the (2) the government doing better than expected and this put pressure on the Democrats with questions becoming more pertinent that they are not participating as they know they will only lose (the government may also then give in more over concessions knowing that it can win regardless), or (3) the result is neither here-nor-there with the government doing worse then 2011, but still reasonably well. Think (3) is the likely option with the government suffering a loss of support because of the Amnesty Bill and mismanagement of the rice pledging scheme, but it is so hard to tell as there have been no opinion polls and it is very difficult to get a sense of support for Puea Thai in the Thaksin heartland aside from anecdotal evidence.
Other reasons include (a) government supporters have been pushing the government to hold the election as they view the government has been giving too much to the protesters with little gain particularly over the dissolution and the election enables them to express their political opinion and from the government perspective it helps calm their supporters and to lessen the chances of their supporters coming out to protest with clashes, and (b) the government will hope to gain some form of legitimacy from either the turnout and/or the number of votes they get.**
* We may then see higher turn-outs in some by-elections at that point although this will depend on what grounds we will have the Court ruling to invalidate the election
** Will blog soon with tentative predictions about the turn-out. Any view on turn-out, please post to twitter, or by e-mail to bangkokpundit at gmail dot com