Wissanu dismisses talk of poll delay

Wissanu dismisses talk of poll delay

Deputy PM vows to abide by constitution

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam has brushed aside talk that the regime has given a signal for changes to be made to the organic law governing political parties in order to delay the general election and retain the regime's grip on power.

Mr Wissanu insisted that the constitution stipulates time frames leading to the election tentatively set for November next year.

Compliance with the constitution is mandatory, he said, adding that any amendments to the charter to postpone procedures relating to the general election is nearly impossible.

"The constitution stipulates requirements and they must be met," Mr Wissanu said.

Mr Wissanu made the remarks after former protest leader of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) Suthep Thaugsuban and Paiboon Nititawan, head of the the People's Network for Reform, called on the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to amend the organic law governing political parties to ensure fairness for all parties.

The calls have drawn flak from critics who suspect they are a political ruse aimed at delaying the general election, and prolonging the regime's hold on power.

The calls come amid a growing clamour by political parties for the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to lift the ban on political activities.

Parties are waiting for the NCPO to lift the ban so they can prepare for the election. But there has been no signal from the NCPO as to when it will do so.

Mr Paiboon, whose calls for change were echoed by Mr Suthep, said Section 140 and Section 141 were unfair and should be amended to ensure fair treatment for new parties and new members. The provisions deal with fees, membership and steps in forming new parties.

He said the law exempts existing members from paying membership fees for four years while requiring members of new parties to pay at least 1,000 baht.

He also said the application form for setting up a new party requires "too much" personal information.

He said the proposed amendments require that existing party members should not be registered until they too pay membership fees.

Mr Wissanu yesterday said the organic law on political parties can be amended either through the NCPO chief's invocation of the powerful Section 44 of the previous interim charter which has been carried over in the current constitution.

The other way to amend the law is through the normal legislative procedure via the NLA, he said.

The government cannot initiate a process to change the law, Mr Wissanu said.

He also acknowledged political parties' concerns about the deadline to meet under the organic law and the calls to lift the political ban.

He said it was up to the NCPO to decide when to lift the political restrictions, while the invocation of Section 44 and amending the law on political parties are also ways to address their concerns.

The organic law requires all parties to complete mandatory processes, such as notifications of changes of party members to the registrar, within 90 days of the law coming into effect on Oct 8. The deadline will be on Jan 5.

Parties are now in a dilemma as they cannot meet these requirements as the NCPO has not lifted the ban, but they will be punished by the law if they do miss the deadline.

Chulalongkorn University political scientist Chaiyan Chaiyaporn said it is important for the NLA to independently consider whether to accept the proposal for the law amendment. But it must keep in mind that the change must be for the benefit of the public, not for particular groups of people, he said.

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