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Thailand’s highest court has ruled anti-government protests that have paralysed Bangkok’s city centre for months are legal.
The Constitutional Court has ruled against a petition put forward by the Thai government, which had argued that protesters’ attempts to gather, block roads and obstruct voting were violations of the law. The Court says such actions are covered by the constitutional right to protest.
But in a win for the government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, the same court has ruled against the opposition’s bid to nullify the controversial election that took place earlier this month. It has declined to consider the petition by the Democrat Party to annul the February 2 vote, saying there is no credible evidence that the election violated the constitution.
Ms Yingluck called the polls in an attempt to calm opposition protesters, who have staged more than three months of mass street rallies in an attempt to force her resignation. Ms Yingluck’s opponents say her government is controlled by her brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who fled Thailand in 2008 to avoid going to jail for a corruption conviction and who now lives in Dubai.
They want Ms Yingluck to stand down to make way for an unelected people’s council to enact reforms to tackle corruption before new polls are held. Demonstrators prevented 10,000 polling stations from opening in this month’s vote, affecting several million people, mainly in opposition strongholds in Bangkok and the south. The opposition Democrats had argued that failure to hold the entire election on the same day was an attempt to grab power unconstitutionally – a complaint that has been rejected by the court.
“This case is over,” said the head of the opposition’s legal team, Wiratana Kalayasiri, who filed the petition. “But if the government does anything wrong again, we will make another complaint,” he said. The Election Commission has said the results of this month’s election will not be announced until polls have been held in all constituencies. Ms Yingluck will remain in a caretaker role with limited power over policy until that happens.
The Commission has set a date of April 27 for election re-runs in constituencies where voting was disrupted by protesters.