Clarity needed on timing of next election

opinion January 09, 2017 01:00

By The Nation

With the junta in total control, there is no justification for any delay in implementing the road map 

Many Thai people may not like the country’s political parties and their politicians and often prefer the military to “restore” normalcy to the country’s embattled political scene.

But for better or for worse, these soon-to-be-elected representatives will have something on their side – the people’s mandate. And that is something the junta can never boast of.

Ever since the current junta launched the coup, the question of a mandate from the people continues to be debated. The general public, the international community, local and foreign investors all rightly want to know when the junta will step down and announce the date for a general election. 

Of late, the public has been given mixed signals about the so-called road map. A few months back, during a 

visit abroad, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said that an election would be held at the end of 2017. Now there’s talk of somewhere in mid-2018 or possibly later.

As expected, his people cited the time needed to pass organic laws. They often blame disturbances for their own tardiness but that argument doesn’t hold water when one considers the fact that the junta is in complete 

control of the country’s politics. 

Key members of the Cabinet, the National Legislative Assembly (NLA), and the Constitution Drafting Commission said the process of deliberation on the laws made the holding of elections this year impossible.

Since the National Legislative Assembly is little more than a rubber stamp, the junta cannot offer the excuse of needing more time to push through the organic laws. 

Sadly, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) – the name the junta gave itself – continues to blame others for its own inefficiency. 

On issues that should have been inclusive, like the drafting of the Constitution which was put through a referendum last August, the government chose to go it alone, not allowing meaningful discussion. One is often led to wonder if this Constitution will be the last. It could very well be a recipe for disaster because there is no sense of ownership. In spite of the fact that it was passed, a sizeable number of people voted against it and there were many people who didn’t bother 

turning up to vote in the referendum at all. 

During the constitution-drafting process, the burden was placed on the public. They were told that if they rejected the referendum, the junta would have to stay in power longer until it was passed. Once it was passed, they no longer had that card to play with. So this begs the question: why is our return to democracy delayed? 

What is needed is some decisiveness and certainty. The NCPO needs to come clean with a clear timeline and inform the public about the date for the next election. Transparency is needed on this issue for domestic and international reasons. 

Political parties have to prepare accordingly, and they should be permitted to discuss their own strategy and platform with their members, as well as their constituencies. As of today, they are not even permitted to get together.

There is growing concern that 

the election date could be pushed back as far as September 2018.

Instead of ensuring the road map moves along as laid out, Prayut decides to distract himself with other indulgences – like writing syrupy pop ballads that won’t get him any 

contract with major labels. 

The name of his latest tune is “Bridge”, his fourth since coming to power. 

Indeed, Prayut sees himself as a “bridge” for the public. Sadly, like others before him, elected or not, he believes in his own propaganda. 

Instead of serving as a bridge, the general himself seems to need one to cross over the troubled waters, while Thai people wait with expectation.