Prayut promises election, but ban on political activity to remain

Political parties, despite their divergent ideologies, are united in urging the junta to lift its ban on political activity now that the Organic Act on Political Parties is in effect. Meanwhile, the junta head has announced that the next general election will be held in November 2018.
 
On 8 October 2017, the Royal Gazette published the Organic Act on Political Parties, one of four organic laws which have to be passed before the long-awaited general election can be held. 
 
But the Organic Act on Political Parties has been widely criticised for placing excessive burdens on small and newly-emerging parties with limited resources. One regulation requires parties to have at least 500 founding members, with each member contributing between 2,000 and 500,000 baht to start-up costs. A party needs to have 5,000 members within a year of being established and 20,000 members within 4 years.
 
Each party must have a branch in all regions and must have at least 100 members in each province. Existing parties also have to comply with these requirements in order to stand in an election. 
 
In response to the new regulations, politicians across the political spectrum have demanded more political liberty from the ruling junta. 
 
On 10 October, Sudarat Keyuraphan, a key Pheu Thai politician, told the media that parties should be able to hold discussions and prepare for the next election campaign. She therefore urged the junta to lift its ban on political activity which has been in effect since the coup in 2014.
 
The same day, the deputy leader of the Democrat Party, Jurin Laksanawisit, also asked the junta to allow more freedom for political parties so that they could meet the requirements in time for the election. Jurin, however, clarified he was not asking the junta revoke its ban on political activities entirely. 
 
But Deputy Prime Minister Gen Prawit Wongsuwan has stated that the ban on political activities will remain until at least the end of October, since it would be ‘inappropriate timing’ to allow political activity during the period of mourning. 
 
The junta is holding firm even though junta head Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha has recently reaffirmed that a general election will be held next year. 
 
On 10 October, the junta head clarified that the exact election date will be announced in June 2018, with a general election to be held in November. Prayut asked all politicians not to mobilise until the junta eases the ban on political activity when the ‘appropriate time’ comes.
 
“In October, this is the period when we’re all in grief and sorrow. So I ask that everything pass peacefully for now. At this point I can only say that in approximately June 2018, and I say approximately, an election date will be announced and in approximately November 2018, there will be an election.”
 
The Organic Act on Political Parties is the second organic law to be approved by the junta-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA); the Organic Act on the Election Commission was passed on 13 September. Drafts of the other two organic acts, on the selection of senators and on the general election, have yet to be submitted to the NLA.
 
Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha