PM says local polls likely this year

PM says local polls likely this year

Pledges 'fix' for virus budget drain worry

Local elections are likely to be held this year, according to the prime minister. (Bangkok Post photo)
Local elections are likely to be held this year, according to the prime minister. (Bangkok Post photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has said that local elections are likely to be held this year, though he did not elaborate on which polls will take place first.

The votes will be held when the Interior Ministry and the Election Commission (EC) are ready, said the prime minister in response to reporters' questions about local elections, which have been suspended since the May 22, 2014 coup with the aim of preventing political unrest.

Regarding concerns that local elections might be delayed because the budget earmarked to finance them had been diverted to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, Gen Prayut said: "I'll find ways to fix it."

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam had said on Sunday that local elections might be delayed because budget had been repurposed due to the current situation.

Interior Minister Anupong Paojinda also said yesterday that there were still many issues to be cleared up before they could be held.

For one, the EC must finish drawing up constituency boundaries for the elections of leaders and members of various types of local administrations -- such as the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, municipalities, provincial administrative organisations -- and publish them in the Royal Gazette.

After that, the EC would have to consult with the government to fix election dates, the interior minister said.

Another issue was budgets. Before the end of fiscal 2020, on Sept 30, local administrations of all forms are required to submit their budget proposals to the government, he said.

The preparation of budget proposals usually begins in August and should be completed before the end of September.

If local elections were held during this period, the existing local administrations would be dissolved pending the polls and they would not be able to perform their duties, including the preparation of budget proposals.

This must also be taken into consideration, Gen Anupong said.

Activist Srisuwan Janya submitted a letter to the prime minister and the cabinet yesterday, calling on them to order the EC to organise local elections as soon as possible.

The secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution said local elections were required by the Local Administrations Election Act of 2019.

The cabinet could simply set local government election dates for the EC to follow. The prime minister could use 2-3 billion baht from the central fund to finance them, he said.

He called for local elections in October. If there were not, he would file a lawsuit against the entire cabinet for neglect of duty, he said.

Mr Srisuwan added that delaying the poll might be a government tactic to maintain control over local administrative power.

In his opinion, local elections would be a good way to inject money into an economy stricken by the pandemic.

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