Voters who still cherished the hope of casting their ballots on Feb 24 saw the likelihood fade as the Thursday deadline for publication of the royal decree on the general election slipped away.
Thursday, Jan 10, was the last day the decree could be published if the election is to be held on Feb 24. As of 6.15pm, there was no sign of it.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam had said in mid-December the decree on the election was in the process of being submitted to the king.
A source at the Election Commission (EC) said on Thursday the EC would need at least 45 days to arrange the polls.
“We originally preferred 53 days but as the clock ticked down and the decree didn’t come out, we cut it down to 45 days,” he said.
The activities of which timeframes are flexible because there is no law fixing them are the registration for off-district voting, advanced voting and advanced overseas voting, he explained.
“But apparently voters stand to lose because they will have less time to register,” he added.
According to the source, once the decree comes out, the countdown begins.
During the first 22 days, voters would decide when and where to vote. The choice is advance voting in their constituencies, advance voting overseas and voting on election day but outside their electoral districts.
“Those who want to vote these ways must register first, so we can prepare voters’ list for each constituency and prevent redundancies.
“The 2017 constitution changes the age of voters to at least 18 years on election day, compared to the calendar year calculation of previous polls. This means we’ll know the number of voters only when the election day is set, and we can set it only after the decree comes out,” he said, explaining why the lists cannot be prepared in advance.
The EC had planned to set the election date as soon as possible, the day after the decree came out although it is allowed five days to do so.
It had given voters 20 days to register for advance voting, but if the time is short, this would be cut to 14.
The periods for other activities are set in stone by law. For instance, five days are required for MP candidate registrations.
Based on the 45-day period the EC needs to hold the election, the next possible dates would be March 3, 10, 17, 24 and 31, given the poll is typically held on a Sunday.
Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a former EC commissioner, said moving an election date reflects inefficiency in administration.
“For five months, the government said Feb 24 and all sides have worked to make it happen and accommodate it.
“The fact that the decree cannot be published by schedule [Jan 3] and the government cannot say when it can reflects on the ability of this government.
“It can’t even do something it knew six months in advance. What hope do we have for the 20-year national strategy,” he said.