In an ancient royal ceremony broadcast live on national television and not seen in almost 50 years, His Majesty King Rama X on Thursday signed Thailand’s 20th constitution approved in a controversial referendum last August. The endorsement is usually held at the palace and a public ceremony is not obligatory.
The promulgation of the new charter paves the way to the kingdom’s first general election since the May 2014 coup to be held by the end of 2018 at the latest. A date for a new general election and a formal return to democracy had previously been postponed several times.
No news here. As was to be expected, a member of the junta-appointed interim parliament suggested over the weekend there would be no general elections in Thailand this year. Although prime minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and the deputy-chairman of the ruling junta denied the reports later we would definitely not hold our breath.
Thai daily Khaosod English report today:
Delaying the return to even a semblance of democratic rule, the military government won’t stage elections until mid-2018, Gen. Somjet Boontanom of the National Legislative Assembly said Sunday.
Gen. Somjet blamed the new delay on the need for another 15 months to write necessary legislation.
The general reportedly added that elections would definitely take place; just exactly when remains a mystery.
According to preliminary results based on 94 percent of the votes counted Sunday evening it has become obvious that a majority of Thai voters have accepted the controversial military-backed constitution that will pave the way for a general election sometime next year. But even with an election on the horizon now, the new charter rather implies prolonged military control than a return to full-blown democracy in the Western sense of the word.
While voter turnout was relatively low at just over 50% and opposition was strong in the northeastern region a.k.a. Isaan, preliminary results of the Sunday referendum show that 61.4 percent nationwide voted in favour of the military-drafted charter while only 38.6 percent voted against it.
Full results are expected on Wednesday, however, the gap is wide enough not to affect the result.
A second question asking voters whether the Senate should be allowed to join the House of Representatives in selecting a prime minister also received approval, however with only 58% voting in favour of the controversial clause.