Thailand Prime Minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, has announced that local elections will go ahead this year despite concerns about there being no budget to finance them.
Local elections have been suspended across Thailand since the 2014 coup with “preventing political unrest” cited as the reason for them not going ahead for the past six years.
However, prior to the covid-19 pandemic, a plan was in place to hold local polls across Thailand. The ongoing state of emergency had raised doubts that they could proceed as planned this year.
The budget earmarked for financing local elections has been spent on the government’s 5,000 baht cash handout for citizens who are struggling financially due to the coronavirus situation.
Interior Minister, Anupong Paojinda, expressed concerns by saying there are many issues to resolve before local elections can be held.
His thoughts were echoed by Deputy Prime Minister, Wissanu Krea-ngam, who said the elections might be delayed due to the repurposing of the budget to help the economy recover from the effects of covid-19.
However, Prime Minister Prayut remains confident that there is a solution, and local elections will go ahead this year, saying, “I’ll find ways to fix it.”
There are numerous hurdles to overcome should elections proceed before the year’s end. Firstly, the Election Commission (EC) must create constituency boundaries and publish them in the Royal Gazette.
Once boundaries have been finalized, election dates would need to be decided and agreed upon.
The primary issue of budgets is another obstacle. The 2020 fiscal year ends on September 30th, with local administrators required to submit their budget proposal to the government by that date.
Usually, budget preparation begins in August. However, if local elections are held between August and September, local administrations would be dissolved. They would not be able to perform duties, including budget preparation.
Secretary-General of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution and political activist, Srisuwan Janya, has called for the EC to organize local elections as soon as possible.
He believes that money from the central fund could finance the elections in October, saying:
“The cabinet could simply set local government election dates for the EC to follow. The Prime Minister could use 2-3 billion baht from the central fund to finance them.”
He continued by saying the Local Administrations Election Act of 2019 requires local elections and that they could offer an excellent way to inject money into the economy.
Source: Bangkok Post