Local polls possible with new laws
FOLLOWING mounting pressure over the political activity ban, the ruling junta has indicated that it could resort to issuing extra rules to allow election campaigning but not other activities.
As orders 27/2014 and 3/2015 forbid political activities, political observers and Election Commission (EC) member Somchai Srisuthiya-korn have suggested that they be nullified to make way for local elections to be held.
But Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday that there was no need to repeal the orders because that would mean allowing other activities that had nothing to do with local elections.
The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) did not want to do that, Wissanu said.
But to allow local elections to proceed, the NCPO might instead loosen its grip to a degree. There were several ways to do so, such as issuing new orders, laws or announcements, he said.
Local elections have been banned since the NCPO took power in 2014 and many officials in office today are acting as caretakers, which will remain the case until the NCPO allows elections to take place.
The regime was working to make that happen. Wissanu said, adding that after discussions with relevant agencies, an initial timeframe for local administration elections had been settled for after six related laws are completed and after opinion-gathering sessions held.
The bills are now in an initial stage of completion and accessible via a government website for public comment, he said. They will later be submitted to the Cabinet and the National Legislative Assembly for further deliberations.
It remained unclear how long it would take for legislation to be enacted, Wissanu added, but the local election process should begin within 45 days after the law’s promulgation. Wissanu also gave an assurance that local elections would be independent from the general election, with some occurring before the national election and some after. He added that if the polls were concurrent, the EC would have to figure out a solution.
However, the deputy prime minister declined to say whether the general election would take place as Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has pledged.
Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said the local elections would be held once the six laws were completed. He said he would not point to peace and order as a reason to not hold the elections as people would criticise that.
“What to ask is whether you are ready. If so, just tell me,” said Prayut.
Meanwhile, chief charter drafter Meechai Ruchupan said the organic bill on MPs, which was necessary for a general election, had not been completed. The draft is being deliberated alongside an organic bill regarding the Senate to ensure that provisions in the legislation are coordinated and do not pose practical problems when they are enacted.
Meechai rejected the notion that the new election method would complicate the calculation of MP seats to the point that it could affect poll results.