Elections now promised for 2018

Elections now promised for 2018

Wissanu: Elections will be 'one year from today' - maybe. (Bangkok Post file photo by Chanat Katanyu)
Wissanu: Elections will be 'one year from today' - maybe. (Bangkok Post file photo by Chanat Katanyu)

National elections will take place in February of next year, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Wednesday, confirming fears a vote the military had promised for 2017 will be once again postponed.

"One year from today, there'll be elections", Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told reporters.

Mr Wissanu then immediately backtracked slightly, saying the junta's election timeline was still contingent on smooth amendments and passage of the new constitution, a key part of the regime's plans for elections for a Lower House of parliament.

Within minutes of his "one year from today" statement, he walked his promise back.

"Please don't force [the government] to give a specific schedule for the election," he said. "We can only roughly estimate it. Now, I'll have to be more careful when speaking about these things.

"In future we will talk about the election schedule in broad terms, not the exact timing," he said.

The constitution was approved in a national referendum last August.

It has been awaiting endorsement by His Majesty King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun. The Royal Household Bureau requested changes to clauses related to royal power in the draft, and the government has worked on that.

Mr Wissanu said on Tuesday the government had nearly finished the revision and would submit the amended version for royal endorsement by Feb 18 - a week from Saturday.

His Majesty has 90 days to approve it.

But Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan admitted he could not confirm that the drafting process for the 10 organic bills which will accompany the charter will be finished by the end of this year, adding it remains unclear how long the Election Commission and parties will be given to adjust.

The government had earlier set rough deadlines for elections via the National Council for Peace and Order's "roadmap" in 2015, 2016 and 2017. No specific date ever had been mentioned until Mr Wissanu's promise. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has stressed the roadmap is a list of political tasks, not a calendar.

The nation also is in official mourning for the death of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej last Oct 13.

Political activity has largely ceased to mark the period of mourning. Preparations are under way for the royal funeral and for the coronation of His Majesty the King, but neither will take place before October.

The Pheu Thai and Democrat parties have said they do it not object to a slight delay in the election for matters concerning the monarchy.

Mr Wissanu claimed that Section 77 of the new charter has adversely affected the process of drafting and passing new laws.

Section 77 requires "sufficient hearings" among parties concerned to be carried out before the drafting of any new laws, to ensure they are well analysed based on sufficient information from all sides. In the past, hearings were not mentioned in the charter as a compulsory process, the deputy premier said.

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