Thailand legislator: General election will be delayed

Politician says vote likely to be held in 2018 to pass election laws for democratic transition from military rule.

    Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at Government House in Bangkok in August 2016 [Sakchai Lalit/AP]
    Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha arrives at Government House in Bangkok in August 2016 [Sakchai Lalit/AP]

    Thailand will delay a general election planned for 2017 until next year for more time to pass new voting laws as the country transitions from military to civilian rule, a member of the National Legislative Assembly says.

    Somjet Boonthanom told reporters on Monday the vote would likely be held in March or April of 2018, instead of this year.

    "This is not a postponement, but because of the intricacies involved in drafting election laws, elections will not happen this year," Somjet said.

    Although the military government has regularly expressed commitment to a "road map" for restoring democracy, the date has been pushed back every year since its May 2014 coup that overthrew the democratically elected government of Yingluck Shinawatra.

    READ MORE: Thailand to hold elections in 2017 - military chief

    However, a spokesman for the prime minister's office said the military government was sticking to plans to hold the election in 2017.

    "As far as the government is concerned, we are on track with the road map. The NLA's opinions are their own," said Sansern Kaewkamnerd.

    The military said it toppled Yingluck's government to enforce calm in a country divided by more than a decade of conflict between a military-backed royalist establishment and populist political forces.

    The next step in the transition back to democracy is for new King Maha Vajiralongkorn to endorse a constitution, which was approved in a referendum last year.

    COUNTING THE COST: Thailand's grief - An unstable economic future ahead (26:00)

    Critics argue that provisions in the constitution will entrench the hold of the military even after elections.

    Politicians told Anadolu news agency - on the condition of anonymity - they would accept a delay in elections because of the timing of the royal cremation ceremony of recently passed King Bhumibol Adulyadej .

    "There are some royal prerogatives, like the cremation and coronation of King Rama X [Vajiralongkorn], which would clash with the election campaign," said one former MP. "If this is the case, we can accept a short postponement of elections."

    King Vajiralongkorn recently ascended to the Thai throne following the October death of his father.

    DOCUMENTARY: Thailand - In the Footsteps of the King (24:24)

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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