The government of Thai Prime Minister General Prayuth Chan-ocha has announced that the military junta ruling the southeast Asian nation will once again be delaying fresh elections. The decision (announced by the junta’s deputy prime minister) came after lawmakers in the country’s National Legislative Assembly voted to postpone the enforcement of an election bill by three months so political parties would have more time to prepare for the upcoming national election campaign. A general election tentatively scheduled for November has now been postponed until at least early 2019. Critics immediately denounced the move as another attempt by the junta to cling to power amid widespread threats by the opposition to call protests in February unless the decision is reversed.
The postponement of national elections is all part of a cynical process which has been repeated several times since the Thai military seized power in 2014, whereby promised elections are rescheduled somewhere down the line. General Prayuth Chan-ocha is believed to be courting southern Thai voters as he maps out his post-junta career, leading to rumors he intends to stay on as prime minister long after he has taken off his uniform. The National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO), the junta’s official name, is believed to be forming a military-backed political party to contest the next general election. The NCPO has already greatly enhanced its chances in the eventual election by rewriting Thailand’s constitution, which was approved by voters in a dubious referendum in 2016 (political activists who called for a ‘no’ vote or journalists who covered dissenting voices were arrested in some cases).