THE Junta-led Thai government have pointed to a potential delay in the impending general election, sparking protests among activists who called on the kingdom’s leadership to honour the Feb 24 date.
Late last week, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Kreangam said the polls would likely be delayed to avoid election-related activities overlapping the coronation ceremony of the country’s revered monarch, King Maha Vajiralongkorn.
The elaborate three-day coronation ceremony the king will be held May 4 to 6.
However, Wissanu said the poll will be held no later than May 9 the election date will be discussed during a meeting with the Election Commission.
According to the Bangkok Post, Thailand’s constitution compels the government to hold the election within 150 days of a new organic law taking effect of Dec 11 last year.
The nation’s election law requires the polls to be held on a Sunday and the last Sunday within the 150 day limit falls on May 5.
However, Wissanu said the preliminary preparations for the coronoation would take about “half a month” between April 19 and May 4.
“We can’t move the royal ceremony. Neither can we move the dates for activities required after the election takes place,” he was quoted as saying.
“Therefore, we may have to move the election date to avoid these events overlapping.”
The election is aimed at restoring democracy after the military ousted democratically elected prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, but amendments to the constitution ensured the military retains heavy government influence after the polls.
The military-controlled government, known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) has repeatedly postponed the elections but officials recently said the polls would be held by the end of February.
On Sunday, dozens of Thai activists on took to the streets against the possible in the first such gathering since the government lifted a ban on political activity imposed after the 2014 coup.
According to Reuters, some protestors carried signs which read “We Want Election” and “Election only on Feb 24, 2019”. Others chanted “No delay!”.
Anon Nampa, a human rights lawyer who organised the protest in central Bangkok said: “We want the government to hold an election as soon as possible, so that democracy can move forward in our country.”
Current Prime Minister Prayuth Chan Ocha had expressed his interest in running for the elections prompting speculation that he is vying to become prime minister again.