By THE NATION
THE GOVERNMENT is standing firm on March 24 as the perfect date for the nation to cast their votes, despite criticism over the repeated deferment of the national poll.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam yesterday reiterated that the government’s main priority is to avoid poll-related activities overlapping with the coronation in May.
He added that the other two dates proposed – March 10 or 17 – were not as convenient as March 24.
Wissanu explained that March 10 was a little too close, considering that the Royal Decree on the election has yet to be published, while March 17 will overlap with university entrance exams for hundreds of thousands of 12th graders, many of whom will become eligible voters.
“So, March 24 appears to be the most appropriate date,” he said. “Also the Royal Decree can be expected next week as stated by Deputy Prime Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan.”
However, concerns over the election’s constitutionality remain prevalent as the government tries to postpone election by a whole month from the previously planned February 24.
The Constitution stipulates that the election should be completed within 150 days once electoral laws come into effect. Some political observers say the timeframe should include the endorsement of the poll results in addition to the voting itself.
Wissanu, however, insisted yesterday that the timeframe only covers the casting of ballots. He said the results can be announced within 60 days after the voting, independent of the 150-day period.
Though the final decision will remain in the hands of the Election Commission (EC), he added. If the agency is able to have everything completed within the 150-day timeframe without affecting the coronation, the government will accept it, Wissanu said.
Meanwhile, the pro-election movement continues calling on the government to be clear about organising an election and has set today as the deadline for the Royal Decree to be published. If the decree misses the deadline, people are expected to gather around Democracy Monument on Ratchadamnoen Avenue to protest.
Wissanu, however, said the government did not feel any pressure from the threat.
Separately, the movement’s leader Sirawith Seritiwat told The Nation yesterday that protesters remained firm in their demand that the government publish the Royal Decree as soon as possible.
“Only when the Royal Decree is published can we be certain of an election taking place,” the activist said, referring to the Constitution’s stipulation that an election date must be announced within five days once the electoral Royal Decree is published.
Sirawith vowed to lead more protests until the government can provide clarity about an election by publishing the Royal Decree.
Though it would be best if the junta could keep its promise and hold an election on February 24, Sirawith said he was willing to accept a delay considering the coronation.
However, he believe March 10 would be a better date as it is not |too far from February 24 that was previously set.