Thailand’s Constitutional Court has ruled that the Feb. 2 election was unconstitutional. This decision returns the country to its near-constant state of political crisis, which has become acute for the last several months, as Bangkok has been convulsing with demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. The anti-government forces had boycotted the February election, which would likely have resulted in a renewed mandate for Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra. (The so-called “red” forces associated with her brother Thaksin Shinawatra have won every major election since 2000; meanwhile, some elements of the opposition argue that they should be allowed to appoint a government without an electoral mandate.)
The lawsuit, brought by the Ombudsman, had asked the Court to void the election on the ground that it had not been held on the same day everywhere in the country. Elections in some 20% of the country’s 375 constituencies had experienced some form of disruption caused by demonstrations, and in 28 of these, opposition protesters prevented candidates from even registering. The Constitution says that the election should be held on the same day nationwide, but when this proved impossible due to the protests, the Election Commission had arranged for substitute by-elections in some constituencies, to be held in March. Preparation for these elections was ongoing at the time of the Court ruling, but they will no longer be necessary. Instead a new vote will be held. The Court ruling has already attracted criticism.
The perversity of the ruling is obvious, in that it creates all the wrong incentives. Anyone who knows they will lose an election simply has to interfere with the process, and then go to the court to void the election on the basis of that interference. Poor Thailand; its political crisis continues, and the Court has virtually ensured that elections can never resolve it. Unless the Democrats suddenly decide to support democracy, and compete at the ballot box, another cycle of protest seems assured.
Suggested Citation: Tom Ginsburg, Perverse Ruling from Thai Constitutional Court Extends Political Crisis, I-Connect blog, March 21, 2014, available at http://www.iconnectblog.com/2014/03/perverse-ruling-from-thai-constitutional-court-extends-political-crisis/