Thailand's unfolding political tragedy

Now that the Thai Constitutional Court has nullified the Feb 2 elections, Thailand is beginning to resemble a train wreck.

The decision to void the election is part of a broader orchestrated effort by Thailand's opposition and watchdog agencies to depose the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and limit the influence of her brother, exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The conflict between those who advocate electoral democracy - even at the cost of corruption - and those who are bent on unelected rule based on what they see as virtuous moral authority has deepened. Things are likely to get much worse before they get better.

The latest crisis began with the Yingluck government's amnesty Bill last October. The proposed legislation was aimed at exonerating Thaksin, who is under a two-year conviction for corruption. His controversial rule from 2001 until a military coup ousted him in 2006 yielded a mixed legacy. Pro-establishment supporters regard him as a corrupt usurper who manipulated the electoral system to line his own pockets. Rural folk, on the other hand, embraced his populist platform that addressed their long-neglected grievances.

The amnesty gambit broke an uneasy truce after Ms Yingluck had gone out of her way to appease the military, the privy council and other establishment centres of power. But the amnesty debacle led to the re-establishment of the anti-Thaksin coalition, which had been scattered and demoralised as a result of electoral losses in recent years and Ms Yingluck's apparent consolidation of power after winning the July 2011 election.

The anti-Thaksin coalition gained traction through massive protests in the capital, led this time by veteran politician Suthep Thaugsuban of the opposition Democrat Party under the banner of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

When Ms Yingluck responded by calling for fresh elections, thus reducing her own status to that of a caretaker prime minister, the Democrat Party boycotted the election. The PDRC also obstructed some of the polling in Bangkok. The election commission, seen as part of the anti-Thaksin coalition, was also unenthusiastic.

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