Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has insisted the regime did not order the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) to delay the enforcement of the organic bill on MP elections, which would subsequently push back the general election to February next year.

The premier was speaking Monday after a seminar on government agencies and the mobilisation of the national strategy at Impact Muang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi.

However, when asked whether the election would take place this year, Gen Prayut refused to comment.

Responding to another question about whether the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) had compelled the NLA to defer enforcement of the bill for 90 days, Gen Prayut waved his hand, saying: “No stipulation was given by the NCPO at all.”

Echoing the premier’s remarks, Deputy Prime Minister Chatchai Sarikulya said the delay was entirely down to the NLA, stressing that no order was given to the lawmakers and Gen Prayut was not involved.

Taweesak Suthakavatin, spokesman for the NLA panel scrutinising the bill, insisted the majority of the committee voted for the legislation to be effective 90 days after it is passed and published in the Royal Gazette.

A minority had voted for it to be deferred for 120 days, he added.

According to the constitution, an election must be held within 150 days of the required laws, including the MP elections law, being enforced.

The panel, comprising 33 members, including 12 from the military, decided to adopt the 90-day delay as it took into account the NCPO chief’s Order No.53, which involves the internal procedures of political parties.

The order, which was rolled out last month, requires existing party members to confirm their status within 30 days of April 1 or lose their membership, while fundraising for existing parties can begin from April 1.

The order also allows new parties to be established from March 1.

The order overrides the law on political parties, which stipulates that these procedures could start as soon as the legislation took effect on Oct 8 last year.

This, according to Mr Taweesak, is a new condition that the committee needs to consider.

If the bill on MP election is enforced immediately after being announced in the Royal Gazette, this would trigger a 150-day time frame for an election to be held, which could jeopardise parties who may be unable to select their election candidates in time, the spokesman said, let alone complete the primary vote procedures which must also be undertaken.

Mr Taweesak insisted he was not told by the NCPO to consider delaying the enforcement of the bill, but could not guarantee this was the case for other members.

Referring to criticism that the move undermines Gen Prayut’s promise of a November election, Mr Taweesak said the premier and the NLA have different responsibilities, adding that the NLA is in charge of law amendments while the government takes care of the country’s security.

“This is not the final step. We still have to hear the NLA members at the second and third readings of the bill,” said Mr Taweesak.

The panel is also reported to have changed various elements of the Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC)-drafted bill which will receive its second and third readings on Thursday.

EC member Somchai Srisutthiyakorn said the panel’s decision to justify prolonging the enforcement of the bill on MP elections by citing an apparent benefit to political parties does not make sense.

It would be much easier if the regime lifted the ban on political activities instead, which would allow the parties to carry out necessary procedures from today, Mr Somchai said.

If the government wants to ensure a free and fair election, no rules must be rolled out which appear to favour any particular party or individuals, he added.

It would also be inappropriate for the prime minister to announce he would be ready to return to power if people back him to do so, according to Mr Somchai.

Nikorn Jamnong, an executive of the Chartthaipattana Party, also disagreed with the 90-day delay to the enforcement of the bill, saying his party was prepared to handle the required stipulated procedures in time without the need of such a postponement.

Meanwhile, Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Thai Constitution Protection Association, petitioned Gen Prayut Monday to use his power to stop lawmakers from passing the bill in its current form.

The petition was lodged via the government’s public complaint centre.

“I want to ask the prime minister to signal to the NLA not to roll out this legislation as it would push back the poll which will inevitably have a detrimental affect on his credibility,” said Mr Srisuwan.

United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship secretary-general Nattawut Saikuar said the charter and other relevant laws are being implemented in such a way as to clear the path for Gen Prayut to return after an election as an outsider prime minister.

News Reporter

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