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Deferred MP election bill could delay poll

politics January 19, 2018 07:00

By THE NATION

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Nov election unlikely as panel wants law effective only 90 days after promulgation.



FEARS OF A delay in the promised election have risen following a reported attempt by the committee vetting the draft bill on MP election to stay its enforcement until 90 days after promulgation.

The government’s legal experts said it was not unusual to postpone enforcement of new laws, but politicians warned that further delay of the election is not good for the junta’s image.

A source close to the junta admitted yesterday that there was a suggestion to delay enforcement of the law. This was to complement the recent Article 44 order issued by the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) which amended the Political Parties Act, the source added.

The order stated that after the organic law on the election of MPs is promulgated in the Royal Gazette, political parties and relevant agencies may discuss holding the general election.

The source said the NCPO was afraid that if the MP election law were to be enforced early, the election would take place before November when it is tentatively scheduled to take place.

“If the election takes place before November, it’s not good for the government. They need time to prepare the budget and bureaucratic transfers. Political parties also need time to prepare for the election,” the source said.

However, another source familiar with the matter said that the delay could be an attempt to give new, pro-junta political parties more time to prepare for the election. “They will get three more months,” the source said.

The 2017 Constitution states that the general election must take place within 150 days of four organic laws – on the Election Commission, political parties, MP elections, and the composition of the Senate – being promulgated.

If enforcement of the MP election law is delayed by 90 days, the election would then have to take place within 240 days of its promulgation. The delay would prevent the election being held in November as junta leaders have promised.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who is in charge of legal affairs, said yesterday that the Constitution does not require that all new laws must take effect the day after it is promulgated. He said there were cases in which new laws were set to become effective 30, 60, 90 or 120 days after the promulgation.

Asked if the delay would benefit newer political parties, Wissanu said the older ones would also gain.

Norachit Singhaseni, spokesman of the Constitution Drafting Commission, which is charged with writing the organic laws, said yesterday that it was not unusual to delay enforcement of new laws, to avoid adverse impacts or to allow sufficient time for relevant agencies.

He said that he was commenting on the matter as a member of the Council of State, which is the government’s legal advisory agency.

Democrat Party politicians Nipit Intrasombat and Sathit Pitutecha expressed dissatisfaction over the possibility of an election delay. They said the government’s credibility was increasingly on the decline after repeated failures to keep its promise about the election.

The Isra News Agency reported yesterday that the vetting committee, at their “secret meeting” on Tuesday, had agreed to amend Article 2 of the bill, which stipulates when enforcement of the law begins. The article says enforcement commences one day after the law is published in the Royal Gazette, but the committee’s amendment pushes enforcement back to 90 days after promulgation, the report said.

Members of the vetting committee, however, denied the report, insisting the panel had not discussed or included such a stipulation in the bill.

Taweesak Suthakavatin, spokesman for the vetting committee, dismissed the report yesterday. He insisted the panel did not discuss the matter, and reiterated that the current draft bill would be enforced one day after publication in the Royal Gazette.

He said the committee would meet today to finalise the draft and then submit it to the National Legislative Assembly for further deliberation in the second and third readings next week.

Seree Suwanpanon, another panel member, said it had convened a meeting on Wednesday but nothing about adding 90 extra days to the enforcement date had been discussed. He was not sure whether it was just someone spreading a rumour or an attempt to extend the time period to help the parties, giving them more time to conduct the primary or internal voting.