Political ban 'will end' by June
Electioneering to be legal within 90 days
The ban on political activities will be lifted in June, when all new political parties have been established, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon said Thursday.
He was responding to parties' calls to the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to lift the ban, at a meeting hosted by the Election Commission (EC) on Wednesday.
"But we have to wait for new parties to be established so all parties can move forward together in June," he said.
Political activities will only be fully allowed after the organic bill on the election of MPs becomes law, according to an NCPO order.
Under Order No.53/2017 issued by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in his capacity as the NCPO leader, the council will consider amending or lifting any of its orders or legislation that restricts parties' activities when an organic bill on the election of MPs is published in the Royal Gazette.
The NCPO and the cabinet will then work with the EC, the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) and the president of the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to draw up plans to prepare for the election. Parties and groups can also be invited for discussion, according to the NCPO order.
The deputy prime minister allayed concerns that the election, now expected in February, may be delayed again following a move by members of the NLA to petition the Constitutional Court to rule on the validity of the organic bill.
Gen Prawit insisted the February 2019 election schedule will not be delayed again, and said the court would be asked to consider and rule on the bill quickly.
As of Thursday, 27 NLA members had signed a petition seeking the judicial review on the draft law to avert any complications that might arise later. The minimum number required by law is 25.
Earlier, the NLA decided to ask the court to rule on the constitutionality of the organic bill on the selection of senators only.
The U-turn by the NLA followed Gen Prayut's earlier comment that he did not want to submit the bill for royal endorsement as long as there were still disputes over it.
The CDC previously requested the NLA forward the bill to the charter court to rule on its validity, the same as for the bill on the selection of senators, but the NLA was not convinced and forwarded it to the prime minister instead.
The NLA will ask the court to rule on two issues the CDC has disputed.
One concerns a clause that allows election staff or other individuals to help disabled people cast their vote, something the charter drafters said could conflict with the stipulation that ballots must be cast in secret.
Another involves the clause that prohibits people who fail to vote in national elections without good reason from being appointed as political office-holders, something the CDC sees as a step too far.
The move is raising concern that the election roadmap will be further pushed back.
Key Pheu Thai Party figure Noppadon Pattama urged the NCPO to revoke the political ban as soon as possible due to a lack of clarity. This especially pertains to the do's and don'ts for existing parties when it comes to certain activities, such as updating party memberships, which are supposed to be permitted from April in what amounts to a partial revocation of the ban.
NLA president Pornpetch Wichitcholchai said Thursday he has accepted the petition.
He vowed to write to ask the prime minister if he has submitted the bill for royal endorsement. The NLA will wait for a reply before taking any action.
In the event the prime minister has not submitted the bill for royal endorsement, and will not send it to the charter court for the validity check himself, the NLA will forward it to the court, Mr Pornpetch said.
Seree Suwannapanon, a former member of an NLA committee scrutinising the organic bill on the election of MPs, backed the move by the NLA members to seek a charter court ruling.
It's better to get this out of the way sooner rather than later due to the risk of more conflict potentially leading to another poll delay, he said.