FEBRUARY 24 will be earliest date when the next general election can be held and full resumption of political activities will be allowed no earlier than 150 days before the vote, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday after meeting with the new Election Commission (EC) members.
The election date could be any Sunday between February 24 and May 5, Wissanu said. His discussions with the new election commissioners lasted about 90 minutes. The schedule is in line with the time frame set in the current Constitution, which came into effect in April last year.
“We talked about 10 issues. I briefed them about all matters that have been going on – nothing that everyone didn’t already know, though,” he said. “And we talked about the election date and how to lift the political ban.”
Wissanu’s remarks came after the new EC announced the possible election date during the past weekend, a couple of days after they took office. The schedule, however, followed the road map to democracy announced in June when the junta held a meeting with political parties.
The ban has been a major concern among politicians. With the election fast approaching, the junta has yet to revoke the political restrictions in place since the coup in May 2014. This makes it inconvenient for political parties to make preparations for the first general election in about five years that also may see many changes due to new legislation.
Wissanu, who is in charge of the government’s legal affairs, said that when the last two organic laws are promulgated next month, the political ban will be partially lifted and political parties will have some freedom. They would at least be able to hold a general assembly to select new party executives, for example, he explained.
The ban would be fully lifted after the organic laws are effective – 90 days after the promulgation and 150 days before the election, he said.
So, during the 150 days, political parties can enjoy freedom and have time for election campaigning, Wissanu explained.
While declining to specify the determining factors for the exact election date, Wissanu said political parties would be unaffected. They would have enough time for campaigning, and there was no reason for them to be concerned, he said.
“Say, if the ban is lifted on the first day of the 150 days and the election takes place on the last day, it means they have plenty of time,” the deputy PM said. “Normally, they only have around a month for election campaigning.”
Regarding the EC issue on appointing provincial electoral inspectors, Wissanu said yesterday that the new EC members would take the baton from their predecessors and endorse the inspectors selected while the outgoing EC members were still in office, unless certain nominations are opposed by the involved agency or members of the public, he said.
Regarding a controversy after some legislators suggested that the outgoing EC members should have left the selection of inspectors to their successors, Wissanu said he had talked to the new commissioners and they agreed that the selection fit well with the time frame.