Thailand to hold general election in mid-October 2018 at the earliest

BANGKOK - Thailand is expected to hold a general election in mid-October next year at the earliest or December 2018 at the latest, according to an Election Commission official.

The country's 2017 Constitution gives charter writers up to 240 days from April 6 this year, the date the charter was promulgated, to write 10 organic Bills - four of which are required to be enacted before the general election can be held.

Based on this timeframe, there was some speculation that the exercise may be completed before the Dec 2, 2017, deadline. The four Bills concern the Election Commission, political parties, MP elections and acquisition of senators.

While the first two have already been approved by the National Legislative Assembly and are in the process of being given royal endorsement, the other two are yet to reach the NLA.

Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) chairman Meechai Ruchupan told The Bangkok Post on Monday (Sept 11) that his team would likely take all the remaining time till Dec 2 this year to finish the last election-related organic Bill on MP elections. However, how soon the NLA would enact this would be another story, he said.

"In any case, we'll definitely finish it within the 240-day period. It will unlikely be sooner than that since we have to keep changing it to make it acceptable to all sides. Even when we're done, we might have to keep it for a while to hear potential problems," he said.

Section 268 of the 2017 Constitution provides for a general election to be held within 150 days after the four organic Bills take effect.

The charter gives the NLA 60 days to consider a Bill after receiving it. Once it passes a vote, related parties such as the Election Commission may oppose it within 10 days, in which case a panel comprising the NLA, the Constitution writers and the opposing party will be given 15 days to reconcile the differences.

Subsequently, the NLA will vote on the revised version. If two-thirds of the members vote it down, the Bill will be re-written afresh.

Mr Udom Rat-ammarit, a CDC spokesman, said it was not written in the charter how long the rewriting process might take.

He said if the NLA approves the reconciled version, the prime minister will send it to the Council of State for a final revision before it is sent for royal endorsement. During this period, the prime minister or one-tenth of the NLA members may ask the Consitutional Court to check whether the Bill is unconstitutional. There is no timeframe for the court's deliberations, Mr Udom said.

What's more, after the Bill is sent for royal endorsement, it is difficult to estimate how long it will take before it is signed. If it is returned unsigned to the NLA, or if it is not returned within 90 days, the NLA will decide whether to rewrite or endorse it with no less than a two-thirds majority.

Based on this process, the Bill will be submitted for royal endorsement again. If it is not returned within 30 days, the prime minister will promulgate it in the Royal Gazette.

"As you can see, nobody can tell when to start counting down on the last 150 days (to the election)," Mr Udom said.

A source at the Election Commission estimated that the general election could be held in mid-October next year at the earliest or in December next year at the latest based on this timeline.

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