Real change is coming in 2017 - election or not

Real change is coming in 2017 - election or not

Doubts increase over roadmap timetable

Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd (left), director of government information: There will an election in late 2017 for sure. Surachai Liangboonlertchai, vice-president, National Legislative Assembly: No, there won't. (File photos)
Lt Gen Sansern Kaewkamnerd (left), director of government information: There will an election in late 2017 for sure. Surachai Liangboonlertchai, vice-president, National Legislative Assembly: No, there won't. (File photos)

This year is expected to mark a major change in the political landscape despite the fact the election could possibly be delayed.

The question of whether an election will really happen this year has been raised in several quarters.

Even though Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha and his cabinet members maintain their roadmap is still on course, several key figures have said they cannot ensure it will remain so.

Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chairman Meechai Ruchuphan recently said he cannot guarantee the election will be held this year while National Legislative Assembly (NLA) vice-president Surachai Liangboonlertchai said the election could take place in the middle of next year.

On Nov 8, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha submitted the draft constitution for royal endorsement.

The new constitution, which was endorsed in the Aug 7 referendum, is now awaiting royal endorsement. If it is endorsed, it will be published and come into effect. However, if the draft does not receive royal endorsement on time, it will automatically be considered rejected.

In that case, the interim charter will remain in effect until the rejected draft is amended or a new draft is written.

Meanwhile, the CDC is drawing up the 10 draft organic bills that are essential to holding the general election -- this includes bills governing electing MPs, political parties, and the Election Commission.

After these drafts are finished, they will be submitted to the National Legislative Assembly for consideration -- a process which will take eight months.

In light of this, it is likely this year's election will have to be postponed until next year, sources said.

This year will also see another significant event with the royal cremation of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej. The cremation is scheduled to take place late this year.

Given the circumstances, the general election is unlikely to be held at the same time as people will want to bid a final farewell to their beloved monarch.

When the new constitution comes into force, the next step will be for the government and the National Council for Peace and Order to draw up their 20-year national development strategy, as well as action plans for reform to accommodate this long-term strategy.

NLA member Somchai Sawaengkarn told the Bangkok Post the assembly will have 240 days to deliberate all 10 organic bills to be submitted to it by the CDC.

Apart from the draft organic bills governing electing MPs, the Senate, parties, and the EC, there will also be a bill on Constitution Court hearing procedures, a bill on procedures in criminal cases against political office-holders, as well as bills on the Ombudsman, on anti-corruption, state auditing and one on the National Human Rights Commission.

Mr Somchai said the 10 organic bills will lay the foundation for changes to the political landscape, adding that several existing laws must also be amended to comply with the new constitution, particularly those court procedures and laws governing independent bodies.

He also said other key laws which are to be introduced under the new charter include the law governing the 20-year national development plan, a law on national reforms, and a law on fiscal and monetary discipline, as well as a law governing the National Broadcasting and Telecommunication Commission.

Suriyasai Katasila, deputy dean of Rangsit University's College of Social Innovation, said 2017 will change the political landscape. Things should be more clear when the new rules are introduced under the 10 organic laws and the new charter.

Mr Suriyasai also said parties will begin preparing for the election while those hoping for seats in the appointed Senate will emerge as soon as the organic laws on electing MPs and choosing senators come into force.

However, he said the military regime will continue to struggle to solve political conflicts which have lied dormant since the May 22, 2014 coup.

The NCPO has not yet come up with substantive measures to deal with political divisions, which could flare up again when the military regime steps down, Mr Suriyasai said.

He also noted the ongoing trial of former prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra for alleged dereliction of duty in her government's rice-pledging scheme is expected to be completed this year.

If the Supreme Court rules against her, this could stoke further conflict, Mr Suriyasai said, adding the military regime may have to find ways to deal with this when they return to the barracks.

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