Thailand will hold a general election in 2017, the country’s junta chief said on Tuesday, his first comments since voters backed a new military-crafted constitution in a referendum. Sunday’s vote in support of the charter was the first test of public opinion since the 2014 coup. Campaigning and open debate were curbed in the run-up to the poll, however. Thailand’s last general election was in 2011. “The election will be held late 2017 as planned,” Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who as army chief seized power two years ago, told reporters. Since the vote, the European Union and the United States – both key allies – have called on Prayut to hold elections swiftly and lift restrictions on civil liberties imposed since his takeover. Previous election dates promised by Prayut have slipped.
The military says the new constitution will purge Thailand of corrupt civilian politicians and restore stability after nearly a decade of political turmoil including two coups. But critics say the charter will boost military power and limit the sway of elected officials.
Under the new charter, the upper house will be entirely appointed, including six seats reserved for the military. A proportional voting system will probably reduce the influence of major parties.
The senate will also have a voice in picking a non-elected prime minister if the lower house is deadlocked, while it will be easier to impeach a civilian leader.