Prayut dithers over political ambitions

Prayut dithers over political ambitions

PM wary of 'criticism' despite earlier pledge

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wound up another mobile cabinet tour Tuesday with 'impromptu' meetings with local people and children. The trip, which spokesman again insisted had no political motives, took him to the lower North and western Northeast regions, with stops in Loei and Phetchabun districts. (Photo via Government House)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha wound up another mobile cabinet tour Tuesday with 'impromptu' meetings with local people and children. The trip, which spokesman again insisted had no political motives, took him to the lower North and western Northeast regions, with stops in Loei and Phetchabun districts. (Photo via Government House)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha remained non-committal about his political future Tuesday despite a pledge to make his stance clear this month.

The prime minister had earlier said he would clarify his future after the last two organic laws on the election of MPs and on the Senate were published in the Royal Gazette and the ban on political parties was eased.

The two laws were royally endorsed last Wednesday. The law on the Senate became effective last Thursday, while the law on the election of MPs will only take effect 90 days after publication. Meanwhile, Gen Prayut on Friday used his special power under Section 44 to allow political parties to hold some necessary pre-election activities, although campaigning remains banned.

Even though his conditions have now been met, Gen Prayut refused to be drawn on the matter Tuesday.

"Why are you so interested in me? I said I would announce my intentions after the two laws were published ... Right now is after the two laws are published. So is next year. I will decide when I will announce [my future]. It's entirely up to me," he told reporters who asked about his political intentions.

"What's the point of exposing myself to criticism so soon?" Gen Prayut added.

During a visit to London on June 21, Gen Prayut told Bloomberg that he would make his political future clear this month.

Gen Prayut also said he would have to consider which party he would join to ensure that his policies are continued by the next administration.

Asked about the easing of the ban on political activities, Gen Prayut said that after the law on the election of MPs takes effect, he will lift the ban entirely to allow campaigning.

The premier insisted parties would have enough time to canvass for votes.

"Parties should make the most of the time they have to draw up policies acceptable to the people rather than wasting time on mudslinging," he said.

He also refused to say when he will discuss poll preparations with parties.

"I'll consider it when the time comes," the prime minister said.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission (EC) also hinted that the general election may be pushed back from the tentative date of Feb 24 if parties still cannot set up branches and find candidates in time.

EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma said Tuesday the poll agency has approved a set of regulations governing the redrawing of constituencies ahead of the general election after the regime eased its ban on political activities.

The regulations were published in Tuesday's Royal Gazette, with immediate effect.

Pol Col Jarungvith said that the new constituencies will be based on the civil registry database update made by the Interior Ministry on Dec 31 last year.

There will be 350 constituency MP seats up for grabs in the next poll and the EC's job is to figure out how the constituencies will be designated to create room for all of these MPs. Some will be made bigger while some will shrink in relation to the population of voters.

Pol Col Jarungvith said the EC is expected to officially announce the new boundaries in 50 days.

Addressing the issue of the tentative election date of Feb 24, Pol Col Jarungvith said that the EC will announce a poll date when political parties are fully prepared for the election.

"The EC may be ready to organise the poll on Feb 24, but if parties still cannot set up enough branches and cannot find enough candidates to run in the poll as required by the law on the election of MPs, the EC may think again," he said.

According to a new Section 44 order issued last Friday, the EC must finish redrawing constituencies within 90 days and declare the new boundaries before the law on the election of MPs takes effect. Then, the EC will set a date for the poll, at which point the process of organising the next election within 150 days will begin.


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