Thai junta to allow parties to get ready for 2018 polls

PM Prayut to use special order known as Article 44 to solve political deadlock

BANGKOK • Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha said yesterday that he would use a special order that gives the military sweeping powers to allow political parties to prepare for next year's general election.

Major parties had urged the government for months to lift a ban on political activity, which has been in place since a 2014 coup, to allow them to get ready for the vote.

Mr Prayut, who is also head of the junta, said he would use the special order, known as Article 44, to solve a political deadlock.

"The government will have to use Article 44 to solve this problem (political activity deadlock)," Mr Prayut told reporters, referring to a constitutional clause that grants the military absolute powers.

Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd said Mr Prayut would allow parties to take some steps outlined in Thailand's new Constitution, including reviewing their membership list and ensuring they have at least 500 members to qualify them to run in the November 2018 polls.

"The meeting is not considering lifting the ban on political activities at the moment," he said.

The military has been running Thailand since the May 2014 coup, when it ousted the civilian government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, ending years of political turmoil, including pro-and anti-government street protests.

A coup in 2006 ousted Yingluck's brother, former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose supporters have dominated the polls since 2001.

The 2014 coup saw some Western countries downgrade ties with Bangkok.

Earlier this month, the European Union said it would resume political contact "at all levels" with Thailand after putting relations on hold.

That announcement came after Mr Prayut said a general election would be held next November, with the exact date to be announced only in June.

The junta has announced election dates at least two times in the past, only to push them back later, citing concerns such as changes to the Constitution and security issues.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn in April signed into law a military-backed Constitution that kick-starts the process for an election which the junta has promised would restore democracy.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 20, 2017, with the headline 'Thai junta to allow parties to get ready for 2018 polls'. Print Edition | Subscribe