Thai general election 'may be delayed to 2017'

BANGKOK • A general election in Thailand could be delayed until April 2017 if a newly drafted Constitution is rejected by a national reform assembly due to convene next month, said Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam.

The military government established after a coup last year initially said it wanted an election to restore democracy late this year but later said polls had to be delayed until next year to give more time for reforms which the military says should bring stability after a decade of factional rivalry.

The United States and other allies are keen to see democracy restored as quickly as possible but Deputy Premier Wissanu raised the possibility of a further delay if proposed reforms meet opposition.

"If the reform assembly votes down the newly drafted charter, new constitutional drafters are to be set up followed by a referendum," Dr Wissanu told reporters yesterday.

"It would delay the election by about 19 months."

If the new draft wins approval from the council, a referendum on whether to promulgate it would be held on Jan 10, followed by the election in September next year, Dr Wissanu said.

The military government has most recently announced that an election would be held in September next year.

It agreed recently to put the draft Constitution, which would be Thailand's 20th since becoming a democracy in 1932, to a referendum to seek a public mandate and ward off criticism that it was forced upon the country.

The Constitution is expected to be another divisive issue in Thailand's long-turbulent politics.

Some critics say the latest draft is designed to weaken elected governments and neuter the power of parties controlled by the dominant Shinawatra family, which have won every election since 2001 and have twice been overthrown by the military. REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 04, 2015, with the headline 'Thai general election 'may be delayed to 2017''. Print Edition | Subscribe