Local poll preparations well in hand, govt says

Local poll preparations well in hand, govt says

Elections still on course to take place next year

Preparations for the staging of local elections expected next year are well in hand, the Interior Ministry's Department of Local Administration says.

The assurance was given to the Senate committee on local administration headed by Gen Lertrat Rattanawanich during visit by the panel to the ministry to gather information on decentralization of power.

According to the department, a new unit called the "local election division" is up and running and is ready to support the Election Commission (EC) which is responsible for policing the local polls.

Set up in the middle of 2018, the division also organises workshops on local election laws for local administrative bodies and agencies.

Next year will see the country's largest-ever local political contest which has prompted the EC to ask for up to 1.2 billion baht to stage it.

There are a total of 7,754 local administrative bodies nationwide with more than 140,000 seats including executive positions up for grabs.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said his ministry has called local administrative organisations (LAOs) to determine if will have enough funds to finance the local elections as the drafting of poll regulations is close to completion.

He said the local polls will take place when these rules being drafted by the EC are ready to be enforced.

Gen Anupong said if the LAOs do not have enough money left from last year's fiscal budget to organise the polls, the ministry will disburse funds from this year's budget.

This year's budget bill is being scrutinised in parliament and is expected to be approved and implemented in February or March next year.

Under the present constitution, the Interior Ministry, which manages LAOs, arranges the local polls while the EC concentrates on investigating any electoral fraud.

Under the previous constitution, the EC arranged the local polls and investigated any electoral malpractices, which placed a heavy burden on the watchdog with its limited manpower and resources.

Meanwhile, the National Municipal League of Thailand (NMLT) has asked the House committee on decentralisation of power to examine rules requiring local bodies to finance electricity and water infrastructure expansion.

The rules are flawed because this infrastructure ends up belonging to state enterprises, it says.

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