Armed forces confirm poll date before May 9

Armed forces confirm poll date before May 9

A pro-democracy demonstrator shows a sign which reads #NoElectionDelay at Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok on Sunday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
A pro-democracy demonstrator shows a sign which reads #NoElectionDelay at Ratchaprasong intersection in Bangkok on Sunday. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

The Royal Thai Armed Forces Headquarters has warned pro-election demonstrators not to instigate unrest while reiterating the general election will be held before May 9.

The move followed similar warnings by the army’s chief, the army itself and the government after pro-democracy groups stepped up their campaign against a long delay of the poll last week.

Maj Gen Krit Chantaraniyom, the spokesman of the Royal Thai Armed Forces, said the election would be held within the 150-day timeframe.

He said the Election Commission (EC) would set an appropriate date by taking all factors into consideration. The government must ensure the coronation ceremony goes smoothly.

“Please rest assured the NCPO [National Council for Peace and Order] or the government would do everything it can to accommodate the election date to be set by the EC.

“Please don’t turn the armed forces into a party to the conflict against the group aiming to create unrest in the country,” he said.

Pro-democracy demonstrators say they want the royal ceremony to be held smoothly and do not mind the poll being slightly delayed from Feb 24 but insist it must be no later than May 10. Failing that, there is a chance the EC will not be able to announce the results within the 150-day timeframe — from Dec 11, when organic laws governing the poll took effect, to May 9, they say.

If the election is delayed beyond that date, there is a chance the election, even though it has been held, could be later nullified if someone appealed to the Constitutional Court.

And if that happens, a new election could be delayed indefinitely while the incumbent government stays on because there are no provisions in the constitution setting the timeframe for such a circumstance.

Why the delay

A possible delay of the election, previously planned for Feb 24, was floated early this month. Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said with the coronation date set for May 4-6, the EC might need to rethink the poll date so post-election activities won’t overlap with the royal ceremonies taking place 15 days before and after that period. The government suggested March 24 might be more suitable.

The election process begins with the government submits the royal decree calling the election. The EC will then set the date no more than five days later.   

But the EC is believed to have limited room for manoeuvre because the election must fall within a window circumscribed by two laws, with provisions that may conflict with each other.     

The constitution requires the EC to “complete” the election in 150 days after related organic laws took effect on Dec 11, or by May 9. The term “complete” could be interpreted as “ballots cast” or “results announced”. The difference between these two activities is 60 days.

Meanwhile, the election law requires it to “hold” the election by May 9 and makes no mention of the announcement of its results.

Several key figures of the government and some former constitutional writers have since come forward to say the May 9 deadline is only for the ballots to be cast, not for the poll results to be announced. But at the end of the day, it is for the EC to decide because it will be the one who may face lawsuits and foot the 5.3-billion-baht election bills should the court disagree with it in the future.   

The safest way is for the EC to set the poll date by March 10 so the results could be announced by May 9 or it can cut down on the time allowed for some activities and shorten its own process so the date could be moved a bit further. It said last week the most it could do was to reduce the time it needed to prepare everything to 45 days from 53.

Mr Wissanu had said last week the government already submitted the royal decree calling the election to His Majesty the King in December but it has not been sent back.

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