The Bangkok Post

26 Jan 2018
Similar to many of the tactics deployed by the regime, the controversial proposal by a National Legislative Assembly (NLA) subcommittee to delay enforcement of an organic bill on MP elections is merely a legislative trick to postpone the general election from November until next year.

The NLA in its third reading on Thursday approved the bill, including the controversial section. Before that, key NLA members strongly backed the proposal when the bill was deliberated.

To those excluded from the inner circle of lawmaking, the NLA’s approval seems to be a legislative move with a hidden agenda.

Claiming security threats and political divisions, the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has repeatedly refused to lift the years-long ban on political activities it imposed in 2014.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, who leads the NCPO, had already pushed back his election roadmap four times and refused to commit to a specific date for the poll before he changed tack last October and vowed it would be held this November.

The NLA’s decision to approve the proposal last night will likely see the election postponed by another three months. In providing their explanation on Thursday about the need to delay enforcement of the law, key NLA members threw their support behind the move, saying more time is needed to allow political parties, election officials and voters to get used to the new law.

The first draft of the bill written by the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) already provided a 150-day window for preparations for the general election following the promulgation of the law. A period of five months was viewed by the CDC as sufficient for all parties to get ready for the poll.

But the NLA subcommittee decided to add one more condition to the bill to suspend its enforcement by 90 days. With this approved, Thailand will now have a period of 240 days (eight months) to prepare for the general election.

Vittaya Phiewpong, chairman of the NLA sub-committee vetting the bill, said the postponement of the enforcement of the law is to ensure that “affected parties” and voters have time to become familiar with the new law so they don’t violate it.

Meanwhile, election officials will have more time to prepare for the election and get acquainted with new electoral systems defined by the new law so that they can avoid making mistakes, he said.

Other members suggested a longer delay of 120 or 180 days.

Their justification makes little sense, however.

It is true that voters need some time to orient themselves toward a new law. But the period of 150 days suggested by the CDC is sufficient for everyone to be prepared.

If the NLA is worried about the time span being too short it should have better engaged and consulted with the public in its lawmaking process to ensure no parties would be surprised or confused by the new systems and arrangements.

It would also benefit from a better public relations team to educate the public about the new law and officials about the new poll systems.

While the government said it had nothing to do with the proposal, the NLA’s approval corresponds well with the regime’s reluctance to hold general elections and its desire to prolong its power for as long as it can.

With this legislation that will delay the poll by three months, the NLA, which has been seen as a rubber stamp version of the NCPO, has done a disservice to the Thai people who dreamed of returning to democratic rule this year.

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