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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 April 2006, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
Thai judges heed king's appeal
Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej
The revered Thai king rarely makes televised addresses
Thailand's top judges say they will meet on Friday to try to resolve the political crisis, after a rare appeal from the country's revered king.

There is speculation they could nullify the results of the recent election.

In a televised speech on Tuesday, King Bhumibol Adulyadej rejected calls to intervene himself, and said it was up to the courts to solve the "mess".

Thailand has suffered weeks of turmoil, since Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra ordered a snap election on 2 April.

Mr Thaksin won the election, but the polls were boycotted by the main opposition parties, and as a result they failed to deliver a full complement of MPs, without which parliament cannot convene.

In the wake of the polls Mr Thaksin announced he would step aside, but his departure has done little to solve the problem of how to form a government.

Hence the comments by the highly revered king late on Tuesday.

"We have to find a way to solve the problem," King Bhumibol said in his televised speech.

"If you don't help to make democracy move forward, it will be the country's downfall," he told the judges, whom he had summoned to his seaside palace.

The king also criticised the 2 April poll, because so many ruling party candidates ran unopposed due to the opposition boycott.

"Having an election with only one candidate running is impossible. This is not a democracy," he said.

Influential figure

His audience appears to have taken heed of his comments. The Supreme Court has now called an unprecedented meeting of the kingdom's top three judges to discuss the issue.

The judges will "consider all legal aspects" of carrying out the king's wishes, Jaran Pakditanakul, secretary-general of the Supreme Court, told the Associated Press.

Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra - 3/2/06
Thaksin may have stepped aside, but problems remain
Analysts are unclear about what their decision will be, but say the judges could nullify the 2 April election completely and call a new vote.

The main opposition Democrat Party has also taken note of the king's comments.

Since the crisis began, the Democrats have insisted they would not take part in any future elections unless there was substantial constitutional change.

But on Wednesday party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva told reporters his party was now ready to run in new elections.

"The Democrat Party will heed the royal remarks and is willing to co-operate with courts to solve the impasse," he told reporters.

"If co-operation means new elections, the Democrats are ready to run," he added.

Constitutional stalemate

The timing of the king's comments is likely to have been influenced by the fact that, by law, Thailand must have a functioning parliament by the end of this month.

The nine-year-old charter specifies that parliament must meet within 30 days of a general election to form a new government, and that every one of the 500 seats has to be filled before parliament can convene.

Because of the opposition boycott, many ruling Thai Rak Thai party candidates ran unopposed in the election - which meant that, under Thai law, they had to win 20% of the vote to take the seat.

Some of these single candidates did not achieve anything close to that, leaving a number of seats unfilled.

Recent by-elections reduced that number, and the Election Commission plans to hold a third round on Saturday to try to reduce it still further, but all sides are aware that time is running out.

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