BANGKOK: Thailand’s political crisis is poised to enter a crucial new phase this weekend as the main opposition mulls a possible boycott of snap polls and protesters ramp up rallies aimed at toppling the government.
Bangkok has been rocked by weeks of street marches, with demonstrators invading government buildings and gathering in their thousands in the latest eruption of political unrest in the turbulent nation.
The protests are calling for democracy to be suspended and want to rid the country of premier Yingluck Shinawatra and the influence of her brother Thaksin — an ousted billionaire ex-premier who is despised by a coalition of the southern Thai poor, Bangkok middle classes and elite.
They have been joined by the opposition Democrat Party, which resigned en masse from parliament to join rallies.
But analysts say Yingluck’s announcement of February 2 elections has thrust the Democrats onto the horns of a dilemma.
If they choose to boycott the poll, Thailand’s oldest party risks being excluded from the political process, while a decision to join will dismay protesters who have vowed to disrupt the vote.
A Democrat boycott in 2006 helped create the political uncertainty which heralded the military coup that ousted Thaksin.
But Chambers said new election rules have upped the stakes for the opposition, meaning they risk losing their electoral bases.
The party “would be doomed to the wilderness if they boycott and Peau Thai (ruling party) picks up the pro-Democrat constituencies,” he said.