Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha greets officials at Government House on Friday, when he issued an order to extend the deadline for political party registration. (Government House photo)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has signed an order giving political parties more time to legalise their status as the country prepares for an election expected late next year.

The order signed on Friday addresses the immediate concern parties had that they could not meet the Jan 5 deadline under the new organic law to update their memberships and register.

However, it gives new political parties a one-month head start over existing ones. That worries existing parties, whose leaders foresee an attempt to form a new party that will campaign to ensure Gen Prayut returns as prime minister.

They also say that requiring all existing party members to register again amounts to a “reset” that would open the door for some to defect to new groups.

Gen Prayut denied that the measures were intended to “reset” the memberships of any party.

The order also runs counter to a claim made earlier by Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, who predicted that the order would ensure that both established and emerging parties could start their pre-poll activities at the same time.

Existing parties will not be able to begin the registration process until April 1 next year, while new parties can start forming on March 1. Gen Prayut has pledged that the election would take place in November.

Meanwhile, the ban on political activity remains in place, as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) continues to maintain that potential threats to order and stability remain.

Gen Prayut said the order was issued under Section 44 of the former interim charter, retained in the new constitution, which allows him, as the NCPO chief, to take any steps he feels necessary for the public good.

“I have found problems, so I must solve them. Read it (the order) yourself. If you have questions, then you can pose them,” he told reporters. He did not elaborate on the order.

The order was published late Friday in the Royal Gazette

It requires existing political parties to start the registration process from April 1. Members must produce letters to confirm their membership within 30 days from that date, or they will lose their status. As well, each existing party must have at least 500 qualified members pay party fees for 2018 within 180 days from April 1.

New political parties will be allowed to start preparing for their formation from March 1.

The order requires each party to show that its members have joined of their own free will and truly share its political ideals, and were not simply signed up en masse or influenced in other ways to become members.

The order is also intended to prevent duplicate memberships in different parties. Political parties should belong to people, Gen Prayut wrote.

News Reporter

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