Re­al­ity hits af­ter poll date glee

Bangkok Post - - SPOTLIGHT -

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

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