Thailand is to hold a general election next year, Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha said yesterday, seeking to allay concerns his military government might delay plans for a return to democracy, days after the country endorsed a military-backed constitution.
Sunday’s referendum was seen as the biggest test yet of public opinion on the rule of Prayuth, who seized power in a May 2014 coup he said was aimed at ending years of political turmoil in the nation.
Under the junta’s roadmap to restoring democratic rule, Prayuth has previously said a general election would be held next year.
A democratically elected government will take power next year at the earliest, a senior official said on Monday.
Prayuth’s comments followed urging by the US Department of State on Monday for Thai authorities to take steps to restore an elected, civilian government as soon as possible.
“Please have confidence in the roadmap,” Prayuth told reporters at Government House ahead of a Thai Cabinet meeting, in his first public comments since the referendum.
“An election will take place in 2017, I have never said anything different to this,” he added.
Analysts said a desire for greater political stability drove Sunday’s “yes” vote, with 61 percent in favor, preliminary results showed, from among a voter turnout of about 55 percent.
Thailand has been rocked by more than a decade of political turmoil, with two military takeovers and deadly civil unrest.
Critics criticized the constitution before the vote, saying it would constrict democracy and give unelected lawmakers veto power over elected governments.
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