Thailand’s influential military on Sunday confirmed its support for holding nationwide elections on February 2, as a way to end the country’s political deadlock.
“The armed forces will support the February 2 election,” said Army General Nipat Thonglek, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defence.
“With our more than 400,000 personnel, we are ready and willing to help to ensure the election will be clean and fair,” Mr. Nipat told a government-sponsored forum on political reform in Bangkok.
The military’s supreme commander, General Tanasak Patimapragorn, reportedly told a forum with anti-government protest leader Suthep Thaugsuban on Saturday that he wanted to see an election held on February 2, as scheduled.
Government sources welcomed the military’s support of the polls.
“The armed forces leaders sort-of confirmed that they will not stage a coup,” said Chaturon Chaisaeng, Caretaker Education Minister.
There have been 18 military coups in Thailand since 1932, the last of which ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, in 2006.
Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, Mr. Thaksin’s sister, dissolved parliament earlier this month and called a snap election in response to a mass protest Mr. Suthep had mobilized against her government.
But Mr. Suthep nevertheless called for an appointed People’s Council to legislate political reforms prior to the next elections, as a means of “uprooting the Thaksin regime” from Thai politics.
It is widely expected that the Pheu Thai Party, which won the 2011 polls by a considerable margin, will win again if elections are held in less than two months’ time.
The Democrat opposition party, which is scheduled to hold a meeting to select its new leadership line-up on Monday and Tuesday, may decide to boycott the polls.
“If they do (boycott the election) then the election will not be like a normal general election, and it will just take the political conflict to a new stage,” Mr. Chaturon said.