Thailand's election commission sets February 24 poll date

Announcement is followed by military government saying it is lifting a four-year ban on political activities.

    Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha met representatives of political parties on Friday [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]
    Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha met representatives of political parties on Friday [Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters]

    Thailand's much-delayed general election will be held on February 24, the electoral officials commission has said, shortly before the military government announced the lifting of a ban on political campaigning.

    The military government had imposed the strict prohibition after taking power in 2014, citing the need to restore order after months of street protests. It partially relaxed it in September, allowing political parties to resume organising.

    "The election commission has set February 24, 2019, as election day," Deputy Election Commision Secretary-General Nat Laosisawakul told reporters on Tuesday.

    His comments were followed by the military government lifting the ban on political activities.

    "Political parties should be able to campaign to present their policies," an order published by the Royal Gazette said, adding that it comes into immediate effect.

    The race is again expected to pit former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's "red shirt" followers against the military and royalist establishment, which has its own proxy political parties.

    Thaksin's camp, which has won every election since 2001, has seen its administrations overthrown twice in military coups.

    The first one was in 2006, when Thaksin was prime minister, and the second in May 2014, when the current military government removed his sister Yingluck Shinawatra from office after sometimes violent political demonstrations on the streets of the capital, Bangkok.

    Yingluck fled Thailand last year to avoid conviction in a criminal negligence case she says was politically motivated. The military government has sought her extradition from Britain.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies