Thailand elections likely delayed until late next year

Thailand elections likely delayed until late next year
Meechai Ruchupan, chairman of the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC).
PHOTO: The Nation

The next general election will probably be postponed until late next year as the constitution drafters need more time to complete the organic laws regarding elections and political parties, the chief charter drafter said yesterday.

Meechai Ruchupan, chairman |of the Constitution Drafting Commission (CDC), said the new draft constitution's transitional clauses state that elections of MPs and senators must be held within five months after the organic electoral laws take effect.

That meant the original plan that scheduled the next elections for July of next year, as was stated by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, could be delayed.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai Party politicians reacted angrily to the likelihood of a delay. They also accused CDC members of colluding to extend the time in power of the military's ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO).

Meechai said yesterday that the need to complete 10 organic laws in line with the draft charter's transitional clauses would inevitably result in a further delay of the election, from July 2017 to later in the year.

He said he did not think drafters would be able to complete the task of writing the organic laws within eight months after the potential passage of the constitutional draft, as was stated in the junta's "road map to democracy".

"It's a very tough job and the time given is so little. On average we need [time] to finish drafting important laws of at least one month," Meechai said. The chief drafter said he thought the Election Commission (EC) would take the maximum five months, or 150 days, allowed to prepare for the election. He said the drafters had specified the five-month period to allow the EC ample time to hold a free and fair election.

The NCPO will remain in place until the new administration takes over from them, Meechai said, adding that the powers of NCPO chief Prayut would remain intact.

The CDC chief rejected opposition against the NCPO retaining its powers, saying that this was the "normal mechanism".

Pheu Thai deputy spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard yesterday called the delay in elections a "bad joke" for the Thai people. He said Prayut, as head of the NCPO, had already announced that the next election would be held in July next year.

Anusorn warned that the likelihood of a delay might cause more voters to reject the draft constitution in the national referendum. "They will see that this is a clear attempt to extend [the NCPO's] time in power," he said.

Pheu Thai politician Worachai Hema said it appeared Meechai and his team wrote the draft constitution with provisions that would lead to it being rejected in a referendum so as to give the NCPO more time in power.

He warned that this could lead to further conflict in society.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam suggested yesterday that the CDC focus on writing the five organic laws that are directly related to the election so that the original schedule under the road map could be met.

However, he added that if the constitutional draft passed a national referendum, its provisions - including the new schedule for an election - must be abided by.

In a related development, the CDC will hold a press conference at Parliament this afternoon to reveal the details of the 270-article constitution draft.

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