Thai PM hints polls could be delayed again

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Bangkok, Jan 16 (IANS) Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Wednesday said the general election scheduled for February 24 could possibly be delayed again.

Since coming to power after a coup in May 2014, Prayut has made election announcements at least three times in the last three years to delay the polls for various reasons.

“There will certainly be elections, no matter what. It’s impossible to delay. (The date) can be changed, depending on the reasons, but it must be by May 9 as established in the Constitution,” Prayut said during an event at the Ministry of Education in Bangkok.

He did not reveal any new date for the election and added that the focus was on the coronation of King Vajiralongkorn on May 4, Efe news reported.

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Prayut expressed his hopes for peace in Thailand, referring to the protests by the citizens in the last few weeks who urged election should not be delayed.

In August, he had said the election could be held on February 24, 2019, but the coronation announcement of King Vajiralongkorn led to rumours of another possible delay.

The apparent reasons for the delay were said to be that the authorities wanted to avoid the official results — which could take several weeks — and the formation of the future government to coincide with the preparations to begin April for the coronation and the events to celebrate it on May 4 and 6, the report said.

The date of the election, in order to be official, needs to be published in the Royal Gazette, the official journal of Thailand.

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Paopoom Rojanasakul, the Vice Secretary-General of the Puea Thai party, said that the elections could take place in March, adding that his party was however, not informed of any particular date.

Prayut has not confirmed whether he would run for a second term but political analysts and the local media speculated a possibility. While in office, he tracked dissidents and wooed businessmen with promises of stability and financial aid for working classes.

He came to power in May 2014 after a coup when he was the Army chief. He soon left that post with an aim of imposing law and order and fighting against corruption and political divisions amid anti-government street protests.

His critics accuse him of trying to cling to power and of persecuting his political opponents.

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–IANS

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