Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon on Thursday brushed aside speculation that Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha might call an early general election.
"Has the government already completed its term? If not, there is nothing,'' said Gen Prawit, who is also the leader of the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP).
The deputy PM was responding to reports that the PM might decide to dissolve the House of Representatives early despite the government having more than a year left of its term in office.
Gen Prayut told cabinet colleagues on Tuesday that since the government only had one year left in office they should hurry up and implement projects of benefit to the people.
His remark was interpreted by some observers as preparing to dissolve the House.
The speculation also followed reports of conflicts emerging among parties in the government's coalition.
The Bhumjaithai Party, which oversees the Public Health Ministry, has been upset because Gen Prayut is now calling the shots after the cabinet granted him temporary powers to enforce 31 laws relating to the handling of the pandemic, diminishing the role of its leader and Public Health Minister, Anutin Charnvirakul.
Gen Prayut also put the brakes on Mr Anutin's plan for walk-in vaccinations out of fear that any confusion caused by the plan could backfire on the government.
Key members of the minister's coalition party, including spokesman Paradorn Prisnanantakul, later criticised the government's strategy.
Despite playing down talk of an early election, Gen Prawit would not categorically confirm that the government would be able to serve out its four-year term.
"Future situations must be decided by several parties, not only one party," he said. "As for the PPRP, everyone can see for themselves whether the party is strong. But I insist the party will not poach members from other parties."
A PPRP source has nevertheless told the Bangkok Post that Gen Prawit had instructed party MPs to prepare for an election, possibly early next year, without being specific about the likely date.
Gen Prawit told Deputy Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Thamanat Prompow, who is tipped to be named the party's new secretary-general next Friday, and Deputy Labour Minister Narumon Pinyosinwat to prepare for the poll, the source said.
Meanwhile, Chaiyan Chaiyaporn, a scholar at Chulalongkorn University's faculty of political science, said that if Gen Prayut wanted to dissolve the House, this would likely take place early next year, when the government has about 14 months of its term in office left.
By that time, the government might have growing confidence that the national vaccination programme has succeeded in containing the pandemic and creating herd immunity, leading to the full reopening of the country and economic recovery, said Mr Chaiyan.
He also pointed out that ahead of the next general election, parties must hold primary votes, a new element introduced in the organic law on political parties.
Parties must organise primaries in which members choose the candidates they want to stand in both constituency and party-list elections. Setting up party branches will also be a prerequisite for holding primaries.
However, Mr Chaiyan said the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) had not yet set up enough branches to meet the legal requirement, so if an early poll was called, it would be in trouble because it could not field candidates not chosen in primaries.
The party is touted to be pushing soon for an amendment to the primary voting system in parliament, and if this amendment is passed, a House dissolution was expected to follow, Mr Chaiyan said.