Thai electoral fraud case dismissed – Financial Times

By Simon Roughneen in Bangkok

A Thai court has dismissed an electoral fraud case that could have seen the removal of prime minister Abhisit Vejajiva and the dissolution of the ruling Democrat Party.

The party had faced charges that it misused a 29m baht ($950,000) grant from the Election Commission for campaigning in a 2005 election. However, the allegations were not considered by Thailand’s Constitutional Court on the grounds that the Election Commission had exceeded a 15-day statute of limitations to file the proceedings.

“The filing by the Electoral Commission is unconstitutional because the process was not done properly,” said judge Udomsak Nitimontree, reading out the ruling at the court in Bangkok.

Three of the court’s nine judges did not participate in the decision, after video clips were published on the internet apparently showing Democrat Party officials meeting the trio about the case.

The Democrat Party faced dissolution had the verdict gone against it, while senior party members including prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva would probably have been banned from politics for five years.

Markets reacted positively to the decision. The SET index of Thai stocks gained 1.5 per cent after the ruling, while the baht increased 0.3 per cent against the dollar.

Mr Abhisit holds a 70-seat majority over the opposition bloc led by the Puea Thai party, which is linked to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Mr Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 army coup and is accused by the Thai government of fomenting the anti-government “red shirt” protests earlier in 2010. The two-month stand-off between the Thai security forces and the protesters left more than 90 people dead and almost 2,000 injured.

Mr Abhisit came to power in late 2008, after the courts dissolved the previous government, which was led by a pro-Thaksin party after a landslide win in 2007 elections, the first to be held after the 2006 coup.

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