BANGKOK – The National Legislative Assembly of Thailand, whose members were handpicked by the military junta that took power in the May 2014 coup, decided to postpone the general elections until February 2019.
The National Legislative Assembly of Thailand approved on Thursday night a decision to allow an organic bill on the elections to take effect and the general elections to be held 90 days after it was passed and published in the Royal Gazette, instead of enacting it immediately.
The Prime Minister and head of the military junta, Prayut Chan-ocha, vowed in October 2017 that the general elections would be scheduled for November 2018, following several postponements regarding the election timeline since taking power in May 2014.
The committee proposing the law claimed that the extension of the deadline was necessary as it would allow political parties, officials and voters to adapt to the new regulations; however, according to the Constitution, general elections must be held within 150 days after the election-related bills were promulgated.
Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam denied the junta’s involvement in the deadline extension amid public speculation that the government was holding onto power.
An editorial in the Bangkok Post Friday called the recent decision to postpone the elections a “legislative trick,” claiming it “corresponds well with the regime’s reluctance to hold general elections and its desire to prolong its power for as long as it can.”
Before the new deadline was approved, the ambassador of the European Union to Thailand, Pirkka Tapiola, called on the Thai government to hold the general elections within the previously set deadline and to lift as soon as possible the junta’s restrictions on freedom of the press and political assembly and activities.
Thailand has experienced 20 attempted and successful coups since the absolute monarchy was abolished in 1932.
The last two mass protests in Thailand occurred in 2006 and 2014 and subsequently deposed the political movement allied to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose party had won every general election since 2001.