Thailand to hold elections on February 24

Thailand to hold elections on February 24

BANGKOK: Thailand's ruling military junta on Tuesday approved lifting of the ban on political activities it had imposed after taking power in a coup in 2014, clearing the way for an election to be held on February 24 next year.

The long-awaited general election would be the country's first since 2011. The lifting of the ban came in a statement published by the Royal Gazette, the government's public journal.

"The people and political parties will be able to take part in political activities during this period up to the election in accordance with the Constitution," said the statement cited by Thai media.

Thailand's military junta banned political activity after toppling the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and the hugely popular Pheu Thai party in the coup.

The military has been insisting that it intends to restore democracy in Thailand. But the election date has been pushed back repeatedly.

Following the coup, military leaders drew up a new Constitution and changes to the electoral system, which were approved by the public in a referendum in 2017.

According to the Constitution, the military will remain an influential force in politics even after the election. It will be able to appoint the Senate, which in turn will help choose the next Prime Minister.

Dozens of people had been detained and charged since the banning of political activity. But Tuesday's announcement said that political parties "should be able to campaign to present their policies" so the junta had "decided to amend or abolish the laws", the BBC reported.

The royal decree will eliminate the ban on political meetings of more than five people and allow political parties to organise public events and resume financial activities for political purposes.

The junta lifted some of the restrictions last year, allowing parties to meet and enrol in the Election Commission.

Thailand has undergone 20 coups, some of them unsuccessful, since its absolute monarchy was abolished in 1932.