No House dissolution yet
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No House dissolution yet

EC 'needs time' to prepare for election

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (photo from his Facebook account)
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha (photo from his Facebook account)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said he will not call for the dissolution of the House of Representatives yet despite having the legal grounds to do so after two amended organic laws for holding elections took effect on Sunday.

He said the Election Commission (EC) still needs time to prepare for the coming polls.

"Not yet, the EC will be given time to work [on preparations for the polls] first," he said.

The laws amended and passed by parliament -- one on political parties and the other on the election of MPs -- were published in the Royal Gazette on Saturday after their enactment and a royal command from His Majesty the King.

Changes were made to reflect changes in the election method from a single-ballot to a dual-ballot system.

The enactment of the two laws provides legal grounds for Gen Prayut to request a House dissolution and call for an election.

In case MPs' four-year term runs its course on March 23, the next election will be held within 45 days or by May 7.

If the House is dissolved before March 23, the poll will be organised between 45 and 60 days.

Asked about his first pre-election campaign stop as a member of the United Thai Nation (UTN) Party in Chumphon on Saturday night, Gen Prayut said he was excited.

However, he said he must tread carefully to avoid problems because he is still the PM.

He said the UTN will first assess his initial campaign performance so he can improve in the future.

Sawaeng Boonmee, EC secretary-general, previously said the poll agency had drawn up regulations related to the elections, and they would be announced once the two amended laws were enacted.

The EC now will have 25 days to redraw electoral boundaries while parties will also need another 20 days to conduct primary voting to select candidates.

He added that currently, there are only three parties that have branches or representatives in every province, and as such they can field candidates in all constituencies.

He said if the House is dissolved too soon, there will be no electoral boundaries, and the application for election candidacy cannot be held.

A source at the EC said members will meet today to discuss a regulation on electoral boundaries.

The regulation will be issued as quickly as possible to serve as a guideline for provincial election offices to draw up electoral boundaries for the 400 constituency MPs nationwide, the source said.

According to the organic law on the election of MPs, the EC must send electoral boundary formats to provincial election offices, which will hold public hearings to gather feedback from stakeholders including voters and political parties.

Pheu Thai Party leader Cholnan Srikaew said the enactment has provided a legal basis for the general election to take place.

Under the amended law on political parties, parties can now have only one representative in each province, instead of one in every constituency, making life easier for parties, he said.

Nikorn Chamnong, a list MP for the Chartthaipattana Party, said parties will get into election mode now the laws have been enacted, and poll candidates will be out on the hustings at full throttle once the EC announces the electoral boundaries.

He said he believes a House dissolution may take place any time after the general debate, scheduled for Feb 15–16.

The debate will be the final battle between government and opposition parties before parliament's final session ends on Feb 28, he said.

Meanwhile, a survey by Nida Poll found that many think Gen Prayut of the UTN party and Gen Prawit Wongsuwon of the Palang Pracharath Party will reunite and form a coalition government after the next election.

A total of 1,310 people over 18 across various levels of education, occupations and incomes throughout the country were surveyed. A total of 46.5% said the generals have not "broken up" but are merely competing in politics.

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