December 12, 2018
Thailand’s military government lifted restrictions on political activities that have been in effect since the 2014 military coup.
Thailand’s ruling junta has lifted a ban on political activities, paving the way for elections in February of 2019.
The lifting reverses a prohibition on political parties convening meetings or organizing political activities. A ban forbidding the political gathering of five or more people is also restricted.
The ban has been enacted to quell dissent and jail opposition leaders in a bid for the junta to consolidate its power.
Election campaigning will begin from January 2 with elections scheduled for February 24.
The Thaksin-backed Peu Thai party which was deposed by the military in 2014 is expected to gain a large number of votes as is the opposition Democrat party which ruled the country in the late 2000s.
Both have, in recent months, called for the junta to lift the ban quickly saying that lifting the prohibitions too late would leave political parties little time to prepare for polls and campaign successfully.
A military aligned party formed in recent months say they will also contest polls and would nominate current junta-chief Prayuth Chan-ocha as prime minister should they win enough seats.
Hearts and Minds
The junta has in recent months attempted several populist policies in the run up to polls.
The government has enacted a poverty payment plan that hands out free money to people who fail to meet an income threshold.
Those eligible would also have poverty cards issued to them to ensure access to certain subsidized goods and products.
The election will be contested under a constitution drafted by the military which dictates that the junta leaders will pick the entirety of the senate (upper house) of parliament as well as expanding the chamber’s power.
Critics say that these and other steps taking by the junta ensures that the military will continue to play a heavy hand in Thailand’s political future, regardless of the outcome of the elections.