Thai elections likely to be held on July 3

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva has set the ball rolling for general elections by seeking a Royal Decree on House dissolution, and some believe that the date for balloting could be set for July 3.

"I will return [to Bangkok] and make a statement on Monday to explain details about the dissolution," he told the press, before leaving Government House yesterday afternoon to catch a flight to Jakarta, where he will attend the Asean Summit.

Abhisit said that His Majesty had been informed about his plan to dissolve the House and that a Royal Decree would be issued in accordance with the proper procedures. Instead of saying exactly when the decree would be issued, he said he would be back in time. Abhisit is expected to be back in Bangkok tomorrow.

It is still unclear when His Majesty, who has been receiving treatment at Siriraj Hospital for more than a year now, will sign the decree. The doctors are encouraging complete bed rest, because His Majesty has just undergone surgery to remove excess spinal fluid.

The premier, meanwhile, is urging all parties to stop speculating on the matter before Monday, when he is expected to officially announce the actual House dissolution date and election date.

According to the Constitution, elections should be held 45 to 60 days after the House is dissolved. Initially, the government had intimated that the balloting date might either be June 26 or July 3.

Assuming that the Royal Decree on House dissolution is announced in the Royal Gazette on Monday at the earliest, the 45-day countdown would begin on Tuesday. This means that the election might be set for June 26, though many observers believe that the date is too early for comfort.

However, a high-ranking government source told The Nation yesterday that the polls could be set for July 3.

"If the endorsement doesn't arrive by the beginning of next week, then elections cannot be held on June 26," the source said, adding that a 60-day wait might be too long for politicians, because they would want the polls to be held at the earliest.

"Long election campaigns cost a lot more money, that is why the poll could be held on July 3," the source said.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission is ready to start the electoral process as soon as His Majesty endorses the House dissolution, EC member Prapun Naigowit said.

The polling could either be held on June 26 or July 3 depending on the date of House dissolution, he said, hinting that it might be the later date if the decree is issued next week.

Prapun said the Constitution Court's review of the constitutionality of three electoral laws should not pose an obstacle to balloting.

Once the decree is issued next week, the EC could wait a few days for the court to complete its review, he said. Should the review not be ready in time, the EC could issue regulations sanctioning the poll in lieu of the organic laws, he said, adding that he still believed the high-court review would be finished in time.

There will be two different sets of days for the registration of candidates: five days for party-list candidates for proportionate voting, and five days for constituency candidates for direct voting.

To be eligible, all candidates need to belong to a party for no less than 30 days before the polling date. Candidates are not allowed dual party membership.

-The Nation/Asia News Network