BANGKOK (AP):Thailand's main opposition Democrat Party said yesterday that it would boycott February's general election, deepening a weeklong political crisis over protesters' efforts to oust the government and force political reforms.
The party's leader, former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, announced the boycott after a meeting of party executives, saying the decision was made in order to ensure that Thailand's government will "represent the people once again".
A spokesman for the ruling party said the Democrats were guided by the knowledge that they knew they would lose the election.
The Democrats' position reflects the stand taken by street protesters demanding that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra step down ahead of the elections.
The demonstrators want an appointed interim government to institute reforms before any new polls are held.
The Democrats, who are closely allied with the protest movement, also led an election boycott in 2006 that helped destabilise the government and paved the way for a military coup that ousted then Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck's older brother.
Abhisit said he had "to accept the truth that the people believe that even if the Democrat Party runs in this election, they believe they will be not be able to reform the country".
"We are choosing the harder path, making the long-term decision to represent the people once again," he said.
The Democrat Party has not won a national election since 1992, while Thaksin and his allies have won each one held since 2001.
In 2006, Thaksin called early elections to try to defuse calls for his resignation on grounds of alleged corruption and abuse of power.
His party won, but the three parliamentary opposition parties boycotted the polls and millions of voters marked an abstention box on their ballots as a protest against the prime minister.
The boycott and abstentions meant that in some constituencies, winners could not be certified because they failed to attain a legal minimum share of the registered vote. The inconclusive results left Parliament unable to convene.