Government readies for another election delay

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Members of the National Legislative Assembly meet at parliament in Bangkok, Thursday, Jan. 25. (AP Photo)
Members of the National Legislative Assembly meet at parliament in Bangkok, Thursday, Jan. 25. (AP Photo)

Bangkok (AP) — The nation’s long-delayed election appeared in danger of further postponement Friday after the government-appointed legislature voted to delay the implementation of a piece of legislation needed for the poll.

The National Legislative Assembly voted late Thursday to extend the start date for a new election law by 90 days. The government’s top legal adviser, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam, said the extension would push back the election until as late as February 2019.  Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha most recently said a poll would be held in November this year.

Prawit Wongsuwan, a key government member and defense minister, told reporters Friday that the election pushback would not affect the international community’s faith in the leadership.

“Foreign countries want us to have elections, and we will have one,” Prawit said. “It is just being deferred for three months.”

Critics said the government appeared to be delaying the poll until it could ensure that it or its allies would win any public vote or could at least appoint a military-backed prime minister to lead the next administration.

“As long as the NCPO and the military are not sure that they will be able to come back to power after the election, there will not be an election,” said Chaturon Chaisaeng, the education minister of the previously ousted Yingluck Shinawatra led government.

The Prime Minister, who was attending a regional summit in India, said the decision to delay the election law was made by the legislature and not him.

“I am not able to interfere because these are legal issues that involve the responsible departments,” Prayuth said, according to a statement posted Friday on a government Facebook page. “If we mess with legal matters too much, everything that follows will collapse.”