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Last Updated: Friday, 28 April 2006, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Thai court suspends by-elections
Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej
The Thai king said the judges should solve the problem
The Thai electoral process has been thrown into further doubt after the administrative court suspended by-elections due on Saturday.

But a meeting of the country's top judges failed to give a verdict on the validity of the initial poll, although it pledged to make a decision soon.

In a rare TV address earlier this week, the revered king called the political situation in Thailand "a mess".

He told the judiciary that it was up to them to resolve the issue.

Thailand has been in political limbo since the snap 2 April poll, which was called by Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in the wake of mounting protests against him.

The poll was boycotted by the opposition, and consequently not all the seats were filled - which under Thai law means parliament cannot sit.

In an effort to solve this problem, the country has already held one round of by-elections, but 14 seats remain vacant.

There was little hope that, even if another by-election had been held this Saturday, the situation would have been resolved.

Judges disagree

At a highly unusual meeting on Friday, the top judges from Thailand's three main judicial institutions - the Supreme, Administrative and Constitutional courts - met to discuss the situation.

So far they have made no definite decision, but Supreme Court Secretary General Jaran Pakdithanakul told reporters on Friday that the judges had "agreed to help resolve the ongoing stalemate as quickly as possible".

Many analysts have predicted that they will choose to nullify the whole process and order a new election.

Indeed the Administrative Court hinted as much when it announced its decision to suspend Saturday's by-elections.

"The court halted the by-elections... on 29 April because the election has been unconstitutionally organised," the court statement read.

The Supreme Court also appears to support annulling the results of the general election, in keeping with King Bhumibol Adulyadej's view that without any opposition MPs the next parliament would be undemocratic.

But the Constitutional Court has until now backed the results of the 2 April poll.

Critics point out that many of its judges have close ties to Mr Thaksin, and that it is has often ruled controversially in his favour in the past.

According to the BBC correspondent in Bangkok, Jonathan Head, it could be several more days before the judges can reach a consensus - and even if they do annul the poll, organising another one is no easy task.

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