Parties get S44 nod to hold some activities

Focus will be on 'communicating' with members, but 'campaigning' still off-limits

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha is easing the ban on some political activities but remains mum on his own political intentions. (Photo by Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha has used his special power under Section 44 to give political parties the green light to hold some necessary pre-election activities, but campaigning is still forbidden.

The new development followed His Majesty the King’s endorsement of two organic laws on the selection of senators and the MP election, published in the Royal Gazette on Wednesday.

Some “necessary activities” are needed for parties to prepare for a general election, said Gen Prayut’s order, also published in the Royal Gazette on Friday and effective immediately.

Its main thrust is that parties are allowed to organise activities, including general assemblies, on condition that they inform the Election Commission (EC) at least five days in advance.

They may use electronic media to communicate with their members but they are not permitted to use digital platforms for actual campaigning. If recent events in other countries are any guide, platforms such as Facebook could play a huge role in the run-up to voting day.

Until Friday, political parties remained stuck on the sidelines while Gen Prayut and the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) staged what critics said were campaign-style events disguised as cabinet meetings in strategic locations. One such event in Buri Ram drew 30,000 people.

Politicians also cried foul over attempts by the Three Allies (Sam Mitr) to canvass politicians to join the group to back Gen Prayut as an outsider prime minister after the poll.

The easing of the ban for parties will clear the way for the EC to call a meeting with them on the guidelines under the new constitution leading to the first post-coup election next year. The poll could take place as early as Feb 24 or as late as May, barring any other unforeseen events.

Speaking before Gen Prayut issued his order, EC deputy secretary-general Sawaeng Boonmee said the poll organising agency was unable to hold a meeting with political parties until the ban on activities was eased.

Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said on Thursday that a meeting between the EC and parties would take place on Sept 28, and that party leaders and senior regime figures would meet afterward, at a time yet to be determined.


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