NOV 25 ELECTION POSSIBLE
Surayud promises earlier national poll if new charter passes drafting assembly, referendum by August 19
Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont speaks at a press briefing with Election Commission chairman Apichart Sukhagganond, right, and Noranit Settabutr, left, of the Constitution Drafting Committee, in which he announced that the general election date would be
The election may be held as early as No-vember 25, a Sunday, instead of late De-cember - if the referendum on the new constitution is completed by August 19, Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont said yesterday.
The premier assured leading Japanese executives yesterday Thailand would make a "strong return to democracy" within the next six months.
"Thailand will become a leading democratic nation in Asia once again," he said at a luncheon hosted by the Thai-Japanese Association, at the Dusit Thani Hotel.
The PM's assurance came amid a gloomy outlook for the former ruling Thai Rak Thai Party. The National Legislative Assembly voted against giving a fast passage for a government-sponsored bill to amend the coup makers' order that would allow early registration of the disbanded political party in time for a new general election.
Separately, Surayud voiced optimism that the earlier the election happened, the sooner the country could shake off the turmoil plaguing it for almost two years.
He spoke after chairing a meeting with Election Com-mission (EC) chairman Api-chart Sukhagganond and Con-stitution Drafting Assembly (CDA) chairman Noranit Sethabutr.
"This matter in the hands of every Thai citizen, as I have always said, that the people will have to decide for themselves in order to overcome a crisis."
The referendum, as well
as the revised timetable for
the election, hinges on the
new charter being passed by the CDA before July 6, he said.
In regard to concerns about the draft being rejected by the CDA or at the referendum, Surayud said voters would have the final say on the restoration of democratic rule.
"Thai people will have to make up their minds whether they want what they can see or what is being hidden," he said, alluding to the fact that the junta would step in to enact a new charter if the CDA or the referendum rejected the draft.
He said his government had no ulterior motive to try to speed up the timetable for the elections, adding that he wanted to see a free and fair balloting to complete the transition back to democracy as soon as possible.
Noranit said all dates relating to the referendum and the elections were still tentative and could be confirmed only after the CDA cast their votes to pass or reject the draft.
If the CDA could vote on the draft by July 6, then preparations for the polls would proceed as planned, he said.
Under the 2006 Interim Constitution, the referendum must take place 45 days after the CDA approves the draft, and the Assembly would have completed drafting organic laws within 45 days also, he said.
The CDA's term will expire around August 19, the crucial date for either having a draft and organic laws ready for the referendum - or the junta having sole jurisdiction to chart the political system, he said.
Apichart said the EC was ready to organise the election. He said the drafting of organic laws would determine whether newly-registered parties could field electoral candidates.
Under existing rules, electoral candidates must maintain party membership for 90 days before elections, he said.
Apichart said new parties could contest the upcoming elections only if lawmakers agreed to amend the organic laws to lower the membership requirement to 30 days.
Charter writer Somkid Lertpaitoon voiced concern that the revised electoral timetable might impact on the celebrations of His Majesty the King's birthday. The country might not have a new government in time for the royal celebrations on December 5, he said, arguing for the voting to take place on December 16 - as previously scheduled.