By THE NATION
NATIONAL Legislative Assembly (NLA) members have said they expect the next general election to take place early in 2018, rather than late this year, due to the time-consuming legislative process.
The observation could indicate another potential change in the junta’s so-called “road map to democracy”.
NLA member General Somjet Boonthanom said the designated timeline had not been distorted even though the election would happen later than expected.
“Strictly following the road map’s procedure, it would take around 15 months for us to consider organic laws essential to the election,” he said. “The election should be held around March to April next year.”
Somjet said after the charter draft’s promulgation, drafters would need to submit four crucial organic law drafts to the NLA within eight months. The NLA then would take another two months to consider each draft and the election must be held within 150 days, or five months, after the organic laws are enacted.
According to the schedule, the charter draft should receive royal endorsement by February at the latest, before it is promulgated into law.
In 2015, the post-coup government promised that the next election should happen between March and June 2017 following the new charter draft’s promulgation, which they then expected to take place last September.
Soon after the draft passed last August’s referendum, Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha announced that the election should happen this November although that would mean “tough work” for law drafters in accelerating legislation.
With the charter draft currently awaiting royal endorsement, Prayut and his Cabinet have been reticent to comment on the road map in recent months, only saying that every scenario would have to be evaluated based on “future factors”.
Somjet was elaborating on points first raised by NLA first vice president Surachai Liengboonlertchai, who said that the election should be held in the middle of next year due to the NLA’s workload on legislation.
Another NLA member, Jet Siratharanon, agreed, adding that the election could happen before early 2018 if drafters could take less time to submit the drafts to the NLA.
Meanwhile, prominent political party figures urged the junta to strictly adhere to their road-map promise to return democracy to the Kingdom to ensure the country’s international credibility.
Yingluck Shinawatra, former prime minister and a Pheu Thai Party key figure, said the road map had been postponed several times, adding that the junta should be decisive not only because of its credibility but also to ensure that people will be given back their rightful political power.
With the controversial charter draft already passed in the referendum, the drafting of the organic laws should engage more with public voices to establish laws acceptable to as many parties as possible, Yingluck said.
“It can be a way to bring about reconciliation,” she said. “It is something that the government has attempted to promote. I’m not sure if everyone has the same understanding on the term ‘reconciliation’ but to me, I haven’t seen it yet.”
The head of the Democrat Party’s legal team, Wirat Kanlayasiri, said it was not unusual for the NLA to make projections about its work timetable. However, Wirat added it was the duty of the powers-that-be to ensure that the road map is adhered to, so as not to confuse foreigners over Thailand’s political direction.
Meanwhile, Election Commission (EC) members, which is tasked with participating in the drafting of the organic laws, distanced themselves from the election timetable, saying that the commission had to remain politically neutral and obedient to whatever laws are enforced.
“Our task is to make sure that elections are held honestly, transparently and justly. We have strategies planned to promote political stability and the legitimate use of power in future elections,” said EC president Supachai Somcharoen.
“These are to prepare the election process in response to the government’s plan.”