BANGKOK — Crowning King Vajiralongkorn is no justification for delaying general elections, a leading pro-democracy activist said Monday while announcing a protest to demand that the poll be held next month.
Though hardline royalists insist the election, initially set for Feb. 24, must be postponed again to make way for coronation ceremonies in May, Nuttaa Mahattana warned that another delay might push it outside the legal timeframe altogether. Election laws require voting take place by May 9.
“If we delay it again, it might go beyond the 150-day timeframe,” Nuttaa said, referring to the deadline based on the law’s effective date of Dec. 10. “If it misses that time frame, there might be complaints, and the election might be voided.”
Thailand’s last election was annulled by a court in May 2014 on the grounds that voting did not take place on the same day nationwide due to to anti-government protesters blocking many voting booths.
“If this election is voided, we won’t have any time frame to hold to anymore. The delay will become a matter of infinity,” the activist said.
Nuttaa, a leader of the Democracy Restoration Group, said a rally will be held at 5pm on Tuesday at Ratchaprasong Intersection.
Protesters also gathered yesterday at the Victory Monument and today at the Election Commission office to deliver their message.
The fate of the Feb. 24 election, which seemed set in stone when voting regulations were enacted in December, appeared to drift into uncertainty yet again after the palace announced King Rama X’s coronation would take place May 4.
The announcement prompted some hardliners to advocate delaying the election until after the coronation ceremonies are over.
“In the period leading up to the royal ceremonies, which are great blessings to the country and its people, there should not be a political election, because it will be a cause of conflicts, disputes and a lack of unity and reconciliation,” Rangsit University dean Arthit Ourairat wrote online.
He was joined by royalist general Rienthong Nanna who has lambasted pro-democracy activists for disrespecting the monarchy by calling for an election to be held before the coronation.
“You don’t care when and how the royal ceremonies of coronation … will take place. You only want an election without delay,” Rienthong, who’s director of a private hospital and founder of a royalist group, wrote online. “Let me warn you that this is the Kingdom of Thailand where the king is the head of the state. Please show respect.”
Chulcherm Yugala, a distant relative of King Rama V, also advocated for a delay.
“The Election Commission should postpone the election to May 19, 2019, after the coronation ceremonies are over. This is the most appropriate action,” he wrote online, adding that it’s his “personal opinion.”
Deputy PM Wissanu Krea-ngam told reporters today that the election must be held by May 9 as the law requires, with no possible exception. He also advised the Election Commission to complete ballot counting by that date to avoid any possible legal dispute.
The junta’s promises to stage elections have been made and broken repeatedly since the 2014 coup. Word that voting may not take place next month drew outrage on social media, where many took up the hashtag #DelayMyAss to express their anger.