Election likely to take place in December 2018

The general election will likely take place in mid-October next year at the earliest or December next year at the latest now that organic laws will take a full 240 days to complete.

Earlier, the four election-related organic bills are seen as the wildcard on how soon Thailand can restore democracy.

The 2017 constitution gives charter writers up to 240 days from April 6 this year, the date the charter was promulgated, to write 10 organic bills, four of which are required to be enacted before the general election can be held. The timeframe left some hoping they might be completed before the Dec 2, 2017 deadline.

The four bills are those on the Election Commission, political parties, MP elections and acquisition of senators.

The first two have already been approved by the National Legislative Assembly (NLA) and are in the process of seeking royal endorsement. The latter two have yet to reach the NLA. 

Meechai Ruchupan confirmed on Monday his team would likely take all the remaining time, or until Dec 2 this year, to finish the last election-related organic bill on MP elections, give or take only a few days. How soon the NLA will enact it is another story, he said.

“In any case, we'll definitely finish it within the 240-day period. It will unlikely be sooner than that since we have to keep changing it to make it acceptable to all sides. Even when we’re done, we might have to keep it for a while to hear potential problems,” he said.

Section 268 of the 2017 constitution provides after the four election-related organic bills take effect, a general election will be held within 150 days. 

After receiving the bill, the charter gives the NLA 60 days to consider it. Once it passes the vote, related parties, such as the Election Commission, can oppose it within 10 days in which case a panel of three sides -- the NLA, the constitution writers and the opposing party -- will be set up to reconcile the differences within 15 days.

After that, the NLA will vote on the revised version and if two-thirds vote it down, a new process begins on rewriting the bill.  

Udom Rat-ammarit, a spokesman of the Constitution Drafting Committee, said it was not written in the charter how long the rewriting process would take.

“But if the NLA approves the reconciled version, the prime minister will send it to the Council of State for final revision on wording while holding it for not less than five days before it is sent for royal endorsement.

During this period, the prime minister or one-tenth of NLA members may ask the Constitutional Court to check whether it is unconstitutional and there is no timeframe for the court’s deliberation, he said.

He added after the bill was sent for royal endorsement, it would be difficult to estimate how soon it will be signed.

If it is returned unsigned to the NLA, or if it is not returned within 90 days, the NLA will decide whether to rewrite it or endorse it with not less than two-thirds of the votes.

After that, it will be submitted for royal endorsement again and if it is not returned within 30 days, the prime minister will promulgate it in the Royal Gazette.

“As you can see, nobody can tell when to start counting down on the last 150 days [to the election],” Mr Udom said.

Based on this timeline, a source at the Election Commission estimated the general election could be held in mid-October next year at the earliest or in December next year at the latest.

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