Why Thailand’s elections must be held by May 2019
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Why Thailand’s elections must be held by May 2019

THAILAND’S monarch has approved the final two bills needed for the Southeast Asian country to hold its general election, which is widely anticipated to be held by May next year.

According to the Nikkei Asian Review, King Maha Vajiralongkorn Bodindradebayavarangkun endorsed the bills, which stipulates the rules for the lower house election and selection procedures for senators on Wednesday

The approvals were published in the Royal Gazette, the government’s journal.

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This means that the election law for the lower house would take effect 90 days after the publication on the gazette.

Under the constitution, the government must comply with the new laws within 150 from its enactment, making the deadline for the election in May next year.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said he would lift several restrictions on political parties, but the government will still not allow campaigning.

However, he did not mention when those restrictions would be lifted.

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Thailand’s King Maha Vajiralongkorn leaves after paying his respects to a statue of King Rama VII in Bangkok, Thailand, last year. Source: Reuters/Athit Perawongmetha

Once the rules have been changed, political parties can hold meetings, amend their regulations, and appoint managers and register new members ahead of the polls expected to be held in February.

After seizing power in May 2014, the military government banned political gatherings of five or more people, effectively immobilising political parties from carrying out basic activities and stifling dissent.

While the election is widely tipped to take place in February 2019, the government has deferred elections on more than a few occasions.

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According to the AFP, the toppled Thai opposition on Thursday called on the ruling junta to lift the ban on political activities.

Junta critics want to hold political gatherings, which have been banned since a coup four years ago toppled the Puea Thai government led by Yingluck Shinawatra, Thailand’s first female premier.

“We demand for the junta to lift the political activities ban as soon as possible,” Pichai Naripthaphan, an ex-minister in Yingluck’s cabinet, told AFP.

“As the country heads to an election, we need to create a good atmosphere so that people can express their opinions.”