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September 25, 2017

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Thailand opposition seeks to annul election

BANGKOK -- Thailand's opposition on Tuesday launched a legal attempt to annul a controversial weekend general election, as the U.S. warned against any attempt at a military coup to end months of political agony.

A lawyer for the opposition Democrat Party filed a petition in the Constitutional Court to invalidate Sunday's protest-hit polls and disband the ruling party — the latest in a series of challenges through the notoriously interventionist courts to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's government.

"The petition is to seek to nullify the election, disband Puea Thai party and ban its party executives from office for five years," Virat Kalayasiri told reporters as he entered the court, later confirming that it had been officially lodged.

Yingluck called Sunday's snap election to try to defuse mass rallies that have dogged her government for three months, sparked deadly violence in Bangkok and thrust the kingdom into prolonged political turmoil.

But the protests, led by a former Democrat MP, have continued — raising the specter of a "judicial coup" to end the impasse, which has also seen demonstrators besiege official buildings and occupy key intersections in the capital.

The protesters want Yingluck ousted and her government replaced by an unelected "People's Council" to enact vaguely defined reforms before new elections.

They say she is a mere puppet for her exiled elder brother, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra whom they accuse of corruption and vote-buying.

The Democrats, Thailand's oldest party, boycotted the poll while opposition-backed protesters prevented 10,000 polling stations from opening on Sunday, affecting several million people, mainly in opposition strongholds in Bangkok and the south.

Virat said the legal challenge pivots on the government's failure to hold full elections, after the protest disruption prompted election authorities to withhold results until ballots are cast in all constituencies.

"The government failed to hold the election on the same day. It was an attempt to gain power unconstitutionally," he said, adding that he had filed the petition on a personal basis.

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