BANGKOK – Thailand’s Prime Minister Gen. Prayut Chan-ocha announced on Tuesday that general elections would be held in November 2018, more than four years after the army launched a coup in 2014.
Prayut, chief of the country’s military junta since the coup, said at a Cabinet meeting the exact dates would be announced around June 2018, according to the government website.
The announcement comes days after Prayut met with US President Donald Trump and told him they would hold free and fair elections in 2018.
Thailand’s new law on political parties, one of the four essential organic laws required for holding general elections, came into effect on Sunday.
The other laws include those that will regulate the election commission – approved earlier this year after the new Constitution came into effect in April – and those regulating the upper and lower houses.
The head of the commission that drew up the draft of the Constitution, Meechai Ruchuphan, told the media in Bangkok on Saturday that the two remaining organic laws will be ready by the beginning of December, but did not guarantee the immediate approval of the parliament named by the military junta.
Since the coup on May 22, 2014, all parties in Thailand have been banned from political activities, and the authorities have yet to say when they plan to revoke the ban.
The Puea Thai Party, founded by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is currently living in exile in Dubai, is the main political party in Thailand and has won all legislative elections, including the last one in 2011, since 2001.
Thaksin has a pending two-year jail term in Thailand for corruption and abuse of power, thus his participation or lack of it as a candidate in the polls is one of the biggest questions of the new electoral process.
His sister Yingluck Shinawatra, the successor to the Puea Thai Party leadership and former prime minister, likewise faces a jail term in Thailand, after she fled like her brother to Dubai shortly before being sentenced in September to five years for negligence.
Yingluck was removed from her post by the nation’s Constitutional Court just days before the armed forces led the coup in 2014.
Apart from the possible participation of the Shinawatras, the other important question is the possibility of Prayut standing in the elections as a civilian.
Given the vast support he enjoys from some sectors of the administration, he has not rejected the option publicly, but has said that he will announce his final decision at the appropriate moment.
The elections announced on Tuesday will take place after three years of delays.
The Prayut-led military junta had said after seizing power that it would return the government to civilian rule in 2015.
Thailand has witnessed 19 coups or coup attempts since absolute monarchy was abolished in 1932.