Next Thai general election
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General elections will be held in Thailand in November 2018 according to Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha. However, the Bangkok Post has stated that the likelihood of elections being held in November is "increasingly remote". Civil rights, including the right to vote, were suspended indefinitely following the military coup in May 2014.
The military government in 2014 promised to hold elections in 2015, but later postponed them. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha told the United Nation's General Assembly in September 2016 that elections would be held by late–2017. Then, in a 2017 during a visit to the White House, Prayut promised elections in 2018. In October 2017, he promised elections for November 2018. However, in January 2018, the enforcement of a bill governing the election of MPs was postponed by the National Legislative Assembly for 90 days, which potentially delays elections until February 2019. The bill is one of four needed to hold a general election. The constitution mandates that elections be held within 150 days after all necessary electoral laws take effect. Delayed enforcement of any of the laws pushes back the election.
Early general elections were held on 2 February 2014 after Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra asked King Bhumibol Adulyadej to dissolve parliament more than a year early due to a political crisis. The leaders of the umbrella anti-government movement objected to the polls, instead demanding that there be "reform before elections" and the Yingluck government be replaced with a royally-appointed "reform council". The elections were thus boycotted by the main opposition party, the Democrat Party, and disruption by protesters meant that voting in some constituencies had to be delayed until a later date, while absentee voters in urban areas were unable to vote.
In April 2014 the Constitutional Court ruled that the election was unconstitutional because the vote had not taken place on the same day nationwide. Following an agreement between the Election Commission and Yingluck's government, the fresh elections were set for 20 July. However, the elections were cancelled after a coup d'état in May deposed the elected government and installed a military government known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), led by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, then-Commander in Chief of the Royal Thai Army. The NCPO, on taking power, declared its intention to hold general elections after carrying out reforms and promulgating a new constitution.
The date of the next Thai general election has been subject to much speculation, given the uncertainty of Prayut and the junta since taking power in the May 2014 coup.
Shortly after the 2014 coup, Prayut said that elections would likely be held "by the end of 2015". By late–2014, however, several government officials had said publicly that elections would not be held until 2016, around mid-year.
In May 2015, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said that elections would now be held "around August or in September" 2016, after the government announced its intention to hold a referendum on its draft constitution, which would likely be held sometime in early–2016.
In June 2015, Prayut said that he was willing to stay in office for another two years if people "wanted him to", following a push by the National Reform Council (NRC), a government body, to hold a vote on whether or not the government's reforms should be completed before elections were held. This would mean general elections might potentially not be held until early–2018, but a few days later distanced himself from the NRC's initiative after facing backlash for his remarks, saying "I'm not interested. It's all about the roadmap. Stop asking me [about the matter]." This, however, left the door open to the "completion of the reforms" under another government that would also see elections further postponed, if the NRC's initiative succeeded.
In October 2017, Prime Minister Prayut pledged that a general election would be held sometime in November 2018. However, the selection of an election date gave way to rumours that Prime Minister Prayut would attempt to stay in power after the next election through a military-backed political party. While this was the case, in January 2018 Thailand's parliamentary body voted to postpone enforcement of a new election law by 90 days, further dragging out the timing of an election. At the time, the deputy prime minister said the parliament's decision could delay the election until February 2019.
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