Elections in military-ruled Thailand won’t take place for at least another 22 months, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-o-cha announced Wednesday, delaying an electoral timetable yet again and setting back prospects for restoring democracy in the kingdom.
“The next general election could be organized around July 2017,” Prayuth told reporters, according to Reuters. “It would not be much earlier than this, though the government has tried to speed up all the work.”
A general election could only take place in mid-2017 at the earliest, Thai officials said, because a junta-appointed body, the National Reform Council (NRC), 10 days ago had rejected a new constitution drafted by the junta.
After seizing power from a civilian-led government in May 2014, the junta promised to bring back civilian rule through elections within 18 months, according to Agence-France Presse.
Then, this past May, Prayuth announced that elections would only take place in September 2016, but on condition that a constitutional draft passed a nationwide referendum.
On Wednesday, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said the process of drafting another version of the constitution was expected to take 20 months.
"The total number is 20. Hopefully in June 2017 we will have the general election. And not long, one month after that, we will have the new elected government," AFP quoted Wissanu as saying at a briefing in Bangkok for foreign diplomats.
Should Prayuth stay in office till then his regime would have held onto power for longer than any other Thai junta since 1969, AFP noted.
But Prayuth himself has asked for the drafting of a new charter to be sped up, Thai Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai told reporters.
"The prime minister doesn't want to stay on longer, he even asked for the shortening of the whole process," the foreign minister said, according to AFP.
Since 2001, populist parties have won every democratic election, but Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister Yingluck were both toppled in their roles as prime minister in coups launched by the military in 2006 and 2014, respectively.