Law makes PM's return bid trickier
Prayut can't campaign if on party ticket
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha cannot canvass for votes if he wants to stage a comeback as a prime ministerial candidate on the ticket of any party, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said.
Mr Wissanu said Sunday that if any party names Gen Prayut as one of its three prime ministerial candidates for the next general election, the law bars him from taking part in any campaigning or canvassing for that party while serving as prime minister.
"All he can do is to invite the people to go to the polls," Mr Wissanu said.
"Gen Prayut cannot tell the people to vote for a party which is supporting him to be the next prime minister.
"This is because Gen Prayut is not a poll candidate. He is a holder of public office and must maintain his neutrality."
Asked if the tentative Feb 24 poll date will be pushed back further if several parties insist they will not be ready, Mr Wissanu said that the authority to set an election date rests with the Election Commission (EC), not the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).
Politicians have complained they will only have about 60 days to campaign if the ban on political activities is lifted, as expected, late next month.
Jatuporn Prompan, a core leader of the red-shirt United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), said he suspects the regime will delay the election from Feb 24 to May next year.
"This is because there are more than 30 newly-established parties still awaiting endorsement from the EC, and it is unlikely that this can be done before the Feb 24 poll date," Mr Jatuporn said.
Responding to Mr Jatuporn's remarks, EC secretary-general Jarungvith Phumma gave his assurances that the organisation is prepared to hold the election on Feb 24.
"Of the 37 new parties which applied for registration, the EC has now endorsed 25, with only 12 waiting for official endorsement," Pol Col Jarungvith said.
Pokin Polakul, a Pheu Thai Party key figure and former parliament president, said the people have been waiting for an election to take place for seven years now since the 2011 election.
"There will be a problem if anyone who tries to delay the Feb 24 poll again," Mr Pokin stressed.
Despite uncertainty over whether authorities will stick to the suggested election date, parties continued to ramp up their efforts to mobilise support, despite a partial political ban remaining.
Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, chairwoman of Pheu Thai's election strategy committee, led party key figures to visit people at Platinum Fashion Mall in Pratunam. She said traders had complained about the economic slowdown and its effect on their businesses.
On Sunday, Suthep Thaugsuban, co-founder of the Action Coalition for Thailand Party (ACT), pressed on with a campaign to recruit party members in Sungai Kolok district of the southern border province of Narathiwat.
Commerce Minister Sontirat Sontijirawong, who is concurrently serving as secretary-general of the Palang Pracharath Party, said applications for party membership will open tomorrow and new members will be unveiled at a meeting this Sunday.
Supachai Jaisamut, registrar of the Bhumjaithai Party, said the party will open its southern region branch in Phattalung this Saturday, and the northeastern region branch in Buri Ram on Nov 23.
The northern region branch in Nakhon Sawan and the central region branch in Pathum Thani will also be opened late this month, Mr Supachai said.
After suggestions that foreign observers should be invited to oversee the election, the Delegation of the European Union to the Kingdom of Thailand issued clarified its position.
The group said an EU Election Observation Mission (EOM) can only be deployed when invited by authorities of that country to observe.
"In the case of Thailand, the EU is not preparing the deployment of an EOM," the group said.
"In case there is interest from Thailand in engaging with the EU on this matter, the EU could consider sending an exploratory mission to meet with all national stakeholders and assess whether such a mission would be useful, feasible and recommendable in full respect for the country's sovereignty," it added.
Meanwhile, Gen Prayut arrived in Paris Sunday to join world leaders in a commemoration at the Arc de Triomphe to mark the 100th anniversary of the Armistice that brought World War One to an end.
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