Thai King Maha Vajiralongkorn yesterday ratified a military-backed constitution in a televised ceremony in Bangkok, paving the way for an election late next year.
The promulgation of Thailand’s 20th charter had been delayed after the king requested changes following the death of his father in October last year.
It allows the return of some form of representative democracy after the military seized power in a 2014 coup that deposed former Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra.
“Everything is in line with the road map,” Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha, who also leads the junta, said on Tuesday in announcing the promulgation. “The government will continue to enforce the law, reform and solve the country’s problems to ensure the country is peaceful and orderly.”
The new constitution enhances the power of appointed soldiers, judges and bureaucrats to block moves by elected politicians, the culmination of a decade-long fight by the royalist establishment to curb the influence of former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
Allies of the exiled billionaire, who introduced cheap healthcare and bolstered price support for farmers, have won the past five elections, only to be ousted by either the courts or military.
Approved by Thai voters in a referendum in August last year, the constitution outlines the path back to an election once it is formally promulgated.
Meechai Ruchupan, head of the junta’s constitutional drafting committee who served the same role after a 1991 coup, told reporters this week that an election would be held in about 19 months.
The drafting committee is to have eight months to draft 10 so-called organic laws governing the new political system.
The Thai National Assembly would then have two months to consider those laws, with Vajiralongkorn having another three months to sign off. Fresh elections must be held within five months of the organic laws taking effect.
The promulgation signals that the election is likely to take place in the fourth quarter of next year, Siam Intelligence Unit executive director Kan Yuenyong said.
The timing also hinges on the royal cremation of king Bhumibol Adulyadej and the formal coronation of Vajiralongkorn, he said.
“The constitution reflects the power structure among Thai elites more than anything else,” Kan said.
“Old elites and bureaucrats” are trying to decrease the political power of politicians, and gain more power for themselves, he said.
In an interview posted on Wednesday on the Facebook page of publisher Khaosod English, Yingluck Shinawatra said the Thai people were looking forward to a normal situation with an elected government.
She was last year hit with a US$1 billion fine over allegations of criminal negligence related to her signature rice purchasing policy.
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