Thai Junta Says Royal Coronation May Delay Election Process

(Bloomberg) -- Thailand’s government said a general election planned for Feb. 24 may clash with preparations for the coronation of the country’s king, and it will be up to the Election Commission to decide whether the timing of the poll is appropriate.

The vote would start a chain of events required under the constitution that may conflict with the coronation of King Maha Vajiralongkorn in May, Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam said. He met with members of the Election Commission on Thursday to discuss the issue. In November, Wissanu said that if the poll is held in February, the king could open the parliamentary session in early May.

A royal decree calling for an election was expected to be published this week, but the government has signaled that it may not happen. Thailand’s constitution, written by the military government that claimed power following a coup in 2014, dictates that the election must be held by May 9.

On New Year’s Day, the Bureau of Royal Household said that the coronation ceremony of King Maha Vajiralongkorn will be held on May 4-6. Vajiralongkorn was proclaimed king in December 2016 after the death of his father, King Bhumibol Adulyadej, though he hasn’t been officially crowned.

The military government has repeatedly postponed elections since junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha seized power in 2014. In December, it lifted a ban on political activities, although a major opposition party said that some restrictions on campaigning remain.

The 500-seat lower house will be the only popularly elected body in the upcoming election, while the upper house, or the Senate, will be selected by the junta.

Wissanu said he discussed details of the coronation ceremony with election commissioners, and the commission will be responsible for selecting the appropriate date for the vote. The election will be held before May 9 as dictated by the constitution, and before the king’s coronation, Wissanu said.

As a constitutional monarchy, all legislation requires the king’s approval. Thailand’s royal family is protected by lese-majeste laws that allow for as long as 15 years in prison for those convicted of insulting key members, limiting public discussion of the monarchy.

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