Reality hits after poll date glee
T hetormenting wait was over for political parties when they heard news this week about the timing of the next general election, straight from the horse’s mouth.
The question has persisted for years since the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) launched the May 2014 coup that toppled the Pheu Thai Party-led government. Until this week, many politicians were grumbling about the general election that never came.
So when Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha announced on Tuesday, and sounded very committed, that a general election will be held in November next year, he pulled a surprise politicians have been waiting to hear.
However, shorter-term confusion prevails over how the parties will have to get themselves ready before they contest the poll.
Political experts agree that if the election were a destination, some parties might not even make it there, given the size of the hurdle they face, brought on by the enactment of the organic law on political parties earlier this month.
The euphoria that greeted the election timing announcement has begun to die down as some parties have voiced their demand for the NCPO’s ban on political activities to be lifted sooner rather than later.
The Pheu Thai Party led the way as it bemoaned the little time it will have for preparing its membership registration and candidacy process for the election within the deadlines imposed by the organic law.
Among the first politicians to fire a salvo was Samart Kaewmeechai, Pheu Thai’s former MP for Chiang Rai, who insisted the ban has frustrated the activities which parties are supposed to be doing to prepare themselves for the poll.
Critics said that most essentially, the ban has shut the door on party meetings to pass resolutions needed to screen and recruit potential candidates. Meanwhile, the deadline imposed by the organic law for accomplishing these tasks is ticking away.
Introduced by the organic law are two crucial time frames for the parties. The first says they must review their membership lists within 90 days of the law having been enacted while the second gives them 180 days from last Saturday to establish party branches, appoint representatives and organise party meetings.
Mr Samart has ruled out any possibility of the deadlines being met unless the NCPO lifts the political ban first.
Constitution Drafting Committee chairman Meechai Ruchupan, who also sits on the NCPO, has hinted the ban could be removed soon. His remarks came in the
wake of growing speculation the ban could be rescinded before the month is out.
But some politicians argue that time is still not on their side due to the primaries system being made mandatory for the first time in the next poll.
The parties are required to review their party membership to ascertain the number of fee-paying members they have nationwide before arranging primaries where members and party representatives will choose potential MP candidates who will later be screened and voted on by party executives to become election candidates.
The complicated process is leaving parties increasingly nervous. Some, particularly the smaller parties, are concerned they might not find enough people to fill the party slots, as legally required.
The Democrat Party, meanwhile, has decided to keep mum and vowed to refrain from speaking on political matters during this month out of respect for the late King in the lead-up to the royal cremation ceremony on Oct 26.
The Democrats have also cautioned other parties to observe protocol and be more perceptive to the prevailing atmosphere of mourning. It said now was not the time to be making noises about vested political interests.
Samart: Frustrated over political ban