Thai Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s fellow junta leaders have dropped a bombshell that might signal another delay in general elections set for Feb. 24, 2019, hot on the heels of Prayuth’s promises that polls would be held before world leaders at the ASEAN Summit in Singapore. That follows a full four years of broken promises. The possibility of delay had been hinted at on Nov. 12 by Deputy Premier Wissanu Krea-ngam who suggested that the election might be pushed back to May 5. He argued that the delay was still within the timeframe determined by the 2017 Constitution and in line with legislative procedures. The delay took a more definitive note when the junta issued a Nov. 16 directive giving the election commission the authority to review and alter the duly completed demarcation of election constituencies as well as to extend the election timeframe.
The spanner thrown into the works at the 11th hour has caused panic among the established political parties, who are already hard pressed to make a real contest of it because of the junta’s ban on political activities other than holding meetings and inducting new members.
The directive is an executive order of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the junta’s official name. The NCPO ousted a democratically elected government with a coup in 2014. The directive carries a legal punch provided by article 265 of the present constitution and article 44 of the interim constitution of 2014 which granted junta leader Prayuth absolute powers no different from martial law.