Left holding a hot potato to determine the election date, the Election Commission (EC) on Friday said it was ready to hold an election and was only waiting for the government to issue the royal decree.
The EC will consider and announce the election date only after the election royal decree is published in the Royal Gazette, said EC president Ittiporn Boonpracong on Friday.
The development came after Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam had informed the agency on Thursday of activities surrounding the royal coronation ceremony and hinted that February 24 may no longer be an appropriate election date due to the two events overlapping.
The deputy PM took pains to distance the government from what would be a controversial election delay, saying it was the EC’s authority and responsibility to decide. But he suggested on Friday that March 24 could be a perfect date for the election to avoid any clash between it and the coronation processes.
“If it’s March 24, the results can be announced on May 22 which is after the royal coronation,” Wissanu said, referring to the constitutional condition that the election results be announced within 60 days after the poll.
EC Secretary-General Jarungvith Phumma also met on Friday with Wissanu to represent the agency in wishing him a happy New Year. He denied having discussed the election date with the deputy prime minister.
“The EC has already had initial discussions about the election date,” said Jarungvith. “But the final decision depends on the royal decree.”
A source close to the EC revealed the agency preferred March 10 as the new election date. But the authority had not confirmed that by press time.
The strong possibility of another election delay has been stirring up anger among netizens since Thursday, after Wissanu cited the royal coronation as allegedly making organising a February 24 election difficult.
A Thai-language hashtag that can be translated to English as #delaymyass became top trending on Twitter, with netizens slamming the junta, venting their anger about the delay and demanding an election in hundreds of thousands of different tweets.
Political activists and some politicians also spoke out against the possible postponement.
Pro-bono human rights lawyer Anon Nampa announced yesterday that an activity against an election delay would be held this Sunday at the skywalk around the Victory Monument.
Another activist Ekachai Hongkangwan submitted a letter to the EC insisting they hold the election on February 24 as previously planned.
He suggested that the EC could announce the election results in 30 days to prevent any overlap with the royal coronation.
The pro-democracy Future Forward Party (FWP) also showed a solid stance opposing any change in the election date.
FWP leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit said on Thursday that the junta was only using the coronation as an excuse to again put off the vote.
Announcing the poll results earlier to allow time for the coronation is feasible if the junta were sincere about the election, Thanathorn said.
FWP was ready to run in a February election and strongly disagreed for any vote postponement, regardless of the excuse, he stressed.
Other parties such as the pro-junta Phalang Pracharat Party and medium-sized Bhumjaithai party, on the other hand, said they were ready for the election no matter when the voting takes place.