Prime Minister guarantees elections in 2017

1Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha personally guaranteed that Thailand would return to a democratically elected government in mid 2017 whether a new draft charter is approved in a referendum or not, vowing to do whatever it takes to ensure that his earlier promise of national elections by next year is fulfilled.

“Don’t worry about it. I’ll make it happen no matter what,” the Prime Minister told reporters who questioned him about whether elections would take place if the new constitution currently being drafted is rejected by voters.

Writing and passing a new charter is a key milestone in the government’s road map to restore and build a sustainable democracy. Thailand’s Western allies have been urging the government to hold elections as soon as possible, but the Prime Minister has said that, in view of the repeated political turbulence of the past decade, it is more important to create a workable framework for a democratic system that will endure before returning the mandate to the people.

The draft constitution was published last Friday, and the public will have several months to provide feedback. The drafters will consider and incorporate public viewpoints before submitted the charter for a referendum tentatively scheduled for September.

This is the second attempt to write a constitution since Prime Minister Prayut assumed power in 2014. The National Reform Council rejected the first draft, sparking allegations by some activists that those governing the country were seeking to prolong their time in office. Questions have also been raised about what course of action the government will take if voters reject the new draft.

Prime Minister Prayut has repeatedly denied allegations about clinging to power and insists that he is looking forward to the day when he won’t have to bear the burdens of office.

“If the draft constitution is voted down and after the election, some groups won’t accept the results, you solve the problems yourselves,” the Prime Minister said, vowing that he would never resort to force to impose any political solution or agenda on the country.

Prayut would not reveal, however, exactly what framework he would use to hold elections if voters reject the draft constitution, but he said he has already been preparing for that possible outcome.

“I’ve already thought of a solution. But I will only talk about it if the draft is really turned down,” he said. “Some of the [current interim] charter would be used [to conduct a general election] if the new draft is rejected.”

The government’s legal team will draft any amendments needed for the interim charter to enable the general election to be held, he said.