Local body polls likely in May-July

Local body polls likely in May-July

Elections for local administrative organisations (LAOs) are likely to be organised from May to July, according to the Department of Local Administration (DLA).

DLA director-general Suttipong Juljarern said members of the LAOs have their tenures expire in May and the Interior Ministry proposed the polls for provincial administrative organisations (PAOs) and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) should be held first since holding polls for LAOs at all levels simultaneously would cause trouble.

Afterwards, elections for municipalities, tambon administrative organisations (TAOs) and Pattaya City would be held, he said.

The elections require the amendment of various laws, which is now under way, he said, adding they also need to be approved by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). According to the interior minister, as far as the road map leading to the general election is concerned, polls for the LAOs could be held between May and July.

Mr Suttipong also warned LAOs members against using their positions to help politicians canvass for support, saying the move is illegal. Those holding these positions, he said, must be politically neutral.

Before the local polls can proceed, six related laws must be amended as their content is still inconsistent with the constitution, including provisions relating to the qualifications of candidates. Speaking of the amendment of the laws, Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda said the ministry had raised the new qualifications of LAOs members, as stipulated in the constitution, with the Council of State, the government's legal advisory body, so it could draft needed amendments.

The Council of State would then present the amendments to the cabinet meeting, he said, adding if they pass the National Legislative Assembly (NLA)'s deliberation, the LAOs elections would then be able to take place.

Although the NCPO will decide when the polls should be held, it has been confirmed the LAOs elections would take place before the national poll in line with the government's policy, the minister said. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has said the general election will be held in November. He said the new legislation stiffens qualifications of candidates for the LAOs, adding that in some positions, the qualifications are on par with those of MPs.

Referring to the investigations into LAOs members earlier ordered by the NCPO, Gen Anupong said the process is proceeding in line with the law. Those whose qualifications fail to meet the criteria will not be able to contest the elections, he noted.

Regarding elections involving the BMA, Gen Anupong said the ministry is ready to proceed with the matter, but needs a royal decree about it first. The Department of Local Administration said last month the changes would reduce the number of TAO members by half from current 100,000. This would save up to 4.7 million baht a year.

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