Election faces delay to 2019

The world’s last military regime has promised an election within a year, but failure to meet its own deadlines could mean another postponement to 2019.

The regime’s possible delay of lifting the political ban could cause a general election to be postponed to 2019, critics say.

Political pundit Suriyasai Katasila urged the military regime Sunday to clarify its stance towards lifting the ban, saying any further delay will likely result in the general election having to be pushed back.

According to him, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has to give a “clearer signal” over what it will do as the deadline for political parties to complete mandatory processes, including notifications of changes of party members to the registrar, is set for Jan 5 next year.

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The organic law on political parities requires all political parties to complete such activities within 90 days after the law coming into effect on Oct 8.

Also, the organic law requires that each party must find 500 members within 180 days of the law taking effect, find an initial fund of 1 million baht, call a meeting to alter their regulations, prepare their ideology, elect party executives, establish party branches and appoint branch representatives and pay the party fees, he said.

That means all of these activities will have to be done no later than April 4 next year, said Mr Suriyasai, who is deputy dean of Rangsit University’s Social Innovation College and former coordinator for the yellow-shirt People’s Alliance for Democracy.

Even though these deadlines are flexible, as the organic law states that they can be extended under certain circumstances, the problem is that it is not known for how long the deadlines can actually be extended, he said.

More importantly, if these deadlines are extended, it may affect another deadline imposed for the political parties to find sufficient candidates to be fielded in the election, Mr Suriyasai said.

“Worse still, the election may end up being delayed,” he said.

Under these circumstances, the election that is expected to come in December next year may consequently be postponed to early 2019 if the lifting of the ban is delayed until Jan 5, he said.

In the worst case scenario, political parties may lose their legal status and no longer exist if they are unable to meet the stipulated requirements within a given deadline, whether it is extended or not, Mr Suriyasai said.

Although the organic law on political parties has been effective since early October, the NCPO’s edict banning political gatherings of five people or more and banning all political activities is still in force.

After the discovery of a weapons cache in a rice field in Chachoengsao over the past week, Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon on Friday said he had received intelligence reports that some groups of people had begun to form political movements, and therefore the lifting of the ban is not likely in the near future but would be reconsidered at a time nearer the general election.

Head of the Democrat Party’s legal team Wirat Kalayasiri said the government and NCPO should not use the discovery of this weapons cache as “an excuse to postpone an election”.

He said the NCPO is powerful and has been in control of the country for more than three years, and should have enough capability to control the situation and investigate the case without the need to postpone an election.

Pheu Thai Party secretary-general Phumtham Wechayachai said it is totally unreasonable for the government to link the arms discovery to possible unrest in Bangkok, and adds weight to the belief that the NCPO is bent on postponing a national poll.

Chartthaipattana Party’s director Nikorn Chamnong said the only way to cope with the deadline of updating the party’s member database is to ask for an extension, otherwise the parties might have to be dissolved for failure to comply with the organic law.

Another question is when the organic bill on the election of MPs and the selection of senators will be passed and come into effect, he said. The charter requires an election to be held within 150 days of these laws being passed. In this case, political parties might not be able to keep up with the huge workload imposed by such a tight turnaround

“This will surely be a problem, a big and complicated problem that some people might have failed to see. Let’s look carefully into these problems,” he said, adding that he believed the Constitution Drafting chairman Meechai Ruchupan had already expressed concerns over the deadlines imposed by the charter.

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