New cabinet to be in office by June if polls held in Feb

politics November 09, 2018 01:00

By THE NATION

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A NEW CABINET is expected to assume office by June next year, though the junta will retain full powers until the new government is sworn in, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said yesterday.



The Election Commission (EC), meanwhile, is expected to hold the national election on February 24, though it can only make the announcement after the law on MP elections goes into effect next month, Wissanu added.

He explained that the date of the polls could not be brought forward because a lot of preparations needed to be made. 

“So far no other dates have been mentioned [by relevant agencies for the national vote],” he added.

He was speaking at a press conference at Government House.

Wissanu, who is in charge of the government’s legal affairs, said that after the organic law on MP elections takes effect on December 11, an election must be held within 150 days or latest by May 9.

If the election is held on February 24, then the EC will have to announce the result within 60 days, or no later than April 24, and the new Parliament will have to be convened within 15 days, or no later than May 8.

After that, the new prime minister will be selected, who will then appoint his or her Cabinet. As soon as the new Cabinet is sworn in before the HM the King, the current Cabinet and the NCPO will cease to exist, according to Wissanu. 

“The new Cabinet will have to announce its policies to Parliament within 15 days of being sworn in, which should happen in June 2019,” he said.

As for the incumbent ministers, Wissanu said they would need to retain their political neutrality and avoid using their position to benefit any political parties or politicians. Regarding the four Cabinet members who have become executives of the Palang Pracharat Party, the deputy PM said they must carefully manage their time at work, and state assets and personnel cannot be used for the benefit of their party, he added.

Meanwhile, once the organic law goes into effect, the EC is required to submit a decree calling for the election of MPs, which the Cabinet will have to get royally endorsed, the deputy PM said. 

Once the royal approval is given, the EC has to set the dates for election and candidate application, among other things.

Wissanu said after the election decree is issued, the ruling National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) should lift all restrictions on political activities to pave the way for parties to start campaigning. 

As for the status of this junta-led government, the deputy PM said it would remain in full power until a new Cabinet is sworn in. 

He explained that unlike its elected |predecessors, this post-coup administration is not a caretaker, because it will not cease to exist.

A government ceases to exist when a prime minister is disqualified, the entire Cabinet resigns, the House of Representatives is dissolved or the administration completes its term. None of these conditions apply to this government.

“A transitional clause [of the Constitution] states that the Cabinet in office before the promulgation of the 2017 Constitution will continue working until a new Cabinet is sworn in before the King,” Wissanu said.

The deputy PM also announced the schedule of events in the run-up to the election and after the national vote. He said the calendar was drafted after consultation with relevant agencies, including the EC and the Constitution Drafting Commission.

Wissanu was earlier told by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha to explain the relevant laws and the timeline in relation to the upcoming election to the media.

Separately, Prakit Siriwattanaket, vice president of Kasikorn Securities, said investors were disappointed about the unclear election timeline announced by Wissanu yesterday, resulting in smaller gains in the Stock Exchange of Thailand Index. 

He said some of the larger gains made in the morning dissipated in afternoon trade and the market closed at 1,681.73 points, up 0.38 per cent.

Earlier yesterday, Deputy Premier Prawit Wongsuwan said foreign organisations who wanted to send observers to the next election can seek permission, adding that the government will consider whether it should invite a foreign agency to observe the polls. 

Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai had previously voiced opposition to the idea of having foreign organisations observe the election. 

He maintained that the polls could be observed by locals to ensure a free and fair election. Politicians and critics have called for foreign observers for the sake of credibility.