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Parties in limbo as NCPO ban persists


Political activity prohibited as deadlines approach, raising fears of election ineligibility under new law.

POLITICAL PARTIES are being left to their own devices as the clock ticks ahead of deadlines for them to rearrange their internal workings as required by a new organic law, as the junta has kept its strict ban on political activities in place. 
The Election Commission (EC) made it clear yesterday the agency did not have the authority to give extra time to political parties to make arrangements to fit the new regulations, despite the junta’s refusal to lift the ban.
Political parties could only petition the EC registrar for additional time if they could not meet the schedule, said commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn.
Somchai added that political parties must file petitions individually for extra time, while it would be up to authorities to determine whether to allow the petitions and by how much the period would be extended. 
If the registrar turned down the request, parties could then submit the matter the entire EC to decide, Somchai said. 
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) had already discussed lifting the political ban and laid out a schedule, but he refused to disclose details and said the NCPO had the sole authority to do so. 
Although politicians’ activities were technically frozen since the ban on political gatherings, Wissanu said there was not a problem and the “road map to democracy” would remain unaffected.
“We are well aware what political parties have to do and how. Although now they are not allowed [to gather], there will not be a problem,” he said. “The law stipulates that the Election Commission can consider case by case and decide to extend the timeframe.”
After the coup-installed government took power in 2014, it issued an order banning political gatherings of five or more people. The order prohibits political activists from campaigning against the junta while also disallowing political parties from holding meetings to make decisions related to their parties’ structure. 
After more than three years in a stifled environment, concerns over the political ban have heightened because the organic law governing political parties has already been enacted. 
Political parties need to hold internal meetings in order to restructure in line with the new law, which entails a number of new rules and regulations. For example, parties have to report changes to their registration records to the EC registrar within 90 days. Also, they have to collect annual membership fees from party members within 180 days.
As the law was enacted early last month, those deadlines are already approaching, but the junta kept the ban on political activities in place before and during the Royal Cremation Ceremony.
As the official mourning period ended on Monday, politicians have urged the NCPO to loosen its grip so parties can get to work, but so far authorities have rejected the proposal, citing the need to keep the peace and ensure order. 
If political parties fail to meet the deadlines set by the new law, they potentially could lose the opportunity to contest the next election.
 

Published : November 01, 2017

By : THE NATION