Included in the order is the suspension of the current complex and time-consuming primary vote system in favour of a more streamlined process.
Gen Prayut yesterday (Sept 14) invoked Order No.13/2018 in his capacity as chief of the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) to allow parties to proceed with certain pre-election activities.
The order was published in the Royal Gazette yesterday, with immediate effect.
The new development followed His Majesty the King’s endorsement of two organic laws on the selection of senators and MP elections published in the Royal Gazette on Wednesday (Sept 12).
The law on the election of MPs will come into effect after 90 days, on Dec 10, while the law on senator selection goes into force immediately.
On Dec 10, a royal decree will set a date for the poll, at which point the process of organising the next general election within 150 days will begin.
According to the new NCPO order, parties have the green light to hold some necessary activities to prepare for the election, but campaigning is still forbidden.
Its main thrust is that parties are now allowed to organise activities, including general assemblies, on condition that they inform the Election Commission (EC) at least five days in advance. Informing the EC is tantamount to obtaining permission from the NCPO, according to the order.
They may use electronic media to communicate with their members but they are not permitted to use digital platforms for actual election campaigning.
The order also suspends the much complained about primary voting system where members would have chosen the candidates they want to run in elections, which parties say are costly and time-consuming.
Instead, the order stipulates a more streamlined process for the next general election in which each party sets up a committee of four executives and seven members to select candidates. The panel will select and nominate candidates to party executives for approval.
The order also stipulates that the EC must finish redrawing constituencies within the 90-day period and declare the new constituency boundaries before the law on the election of MPs takes effect.
Democrat Party deputy leader and former MP for Rayong Sathit Pitudecha welcomed the easing of the political restrictions, saying the party will convene its first meeting of existing party executives on Monday, after which a general assembly will be called sometime in the next two weeks to amend party regulations to comply with the new constitution.
Mr Sathit said the fresh NCPO order paves the way for parties to resume activities, even though the ban on campaigning on social media remains.
However, Mr Sathit noted that canvassing for votes was different from expressing opinions to resolve problems.
"Canvassing for votes is expected to be allowed after the royal decree setting the poll date is declared ... therefore, expressing opinions should not be considered campaigning," Mr Sathit said.
Nikorn Chamnong, director of the Chartthaipattana Party, said the order has now "unlocked" activities, and he believes it is highly likely the general election will take place on Feb 24 next year as expected.
He said the party’s first move will be to recruit new members and it will then call a meeting of existing party executives shortly. The party plans to hold a general assembly on Sept 28 to review regulations and select new executives, Mr Nikorn said.
Meanwhile, Worachai Hema, a former Pheu Thai Party MP for Samut Prakan, said the easing of the political ban was still not enough.
He urged the NCPO to lift the ban totally so parties can travel to meet the people. “Not totally lifting the ban gives the pro-Prayut party an advantage,” he said.
He referred to the Sam Mitr (Three Allies) group which has been travelling to the provinces to collect feedback from locals as to how the government can better respond to their needs, and reiterated accusations that the group has been courting politicians from other parties into the fold of a pro-regime political party.
“The Sam Mitr group has taken a clear stance to support Gen Prayut staying on in power and it has the chance to meet the people while other parties cannot. Refusing to lift the ban totally means giving the pro-Prayut party an advantage," Mr Worachai said.
Deputy EC secretary-general, Sawaeng Boonmee said that the EC expects to finish redrawing constituencies in 60 days and will meet more than 100 parties on Sept 28 as originally scheduled.
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