Embattled Thai Prime Minister, Yingluck Shinawatra, on Monday dissolved the country’s lower House of Parliament and called for a snap election as part of desperate moves to defuse Thailand’s deepening political crisis.
“After listening to opinions from all sides, I have decided to request a royal decree to dissolve Parliament. There will be new elections according to the democratic system,” Shinawatra announced in a broadcast.
Her ruling party won the last vote two years ago in a landslide and is likely to be victorious in any new ballot.
Government spokesman, Teerat Ratanasevi, said the cabinet had proposed that a new vote be held February 2 and King Bhumibol Adulyadej formally endorsed both that date and the dissolution of the House of Representatives via a royal decree.
Shinawatra said she will remain in a caretaker capacity until a new prime minister is named.
As she spoke on Monday, long columns of marching protesters paralyzed traffic on major Bangkok boulevards, filling four-lane roads as they converged from nine locations on the prime minister’s office at Government House.
The protesters, estimated at about 150,000, vow to oust Shinawatra from office and are pushing for a non-elected “people’s council” to replace her democratically elected government.
Analysts say the dissolution of the parliament may have come too late and is unlikely to satisfy opponents who want to rid Thailand of Shinawatra’s powerful family’s influence.
Leader of the protesters, Suthep Thaugsuban, a former deputy prime minister lashed out against the Prime minister, calling her administration “corrupt” and “illegitimate” as crowds of supporters cheered.
The protest movement does “not consent to allowing the dictatorial majority … to betray the people, to destroy the balance of democratic power,” Thaugsuban said adding that “the people must use “their rights as citizens to take back their power.”
He has repeatedly said that calling new elections and even Shinawatra’s resignation would not be enough to end the conflict.
Many feared the day could end violently and more than 60 Thai and international schools were closed as a precaution. But the marches were peaceful and no violence was reported.
Thailand has been plagued by major bouts of upheaval since Shinawatra’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was toppled in a 2006 army coup that laid bare a deeper conflict between the elite and educated middle class against his power base in the countryside, which benefited from populist policies designed to win over the rural poor.
An attempt by Yingluck’s party last month to pass a bill through Parliament that would have granted amnesty to Thaksin and others triggered the latest round of unrest.