Prayuth Promises Thai Election in 2017 Even If Charter Rejected

Thai junta leader Prayuth Chan-Ocha said a national election will take place in 2017 even if voters reject a new constitution in a referendum expected later this year.

Prayuth, who toppled Thailand’s elected government in a May 2014 coup and tore up the previous charter, has long said a new constitution was needed before a vote could be held. He has repeatedly pushed back possible election dates partly because of disagreements over the contents of a new constitution.

“Whatever happens, an election will take place in 2017,” Prayuth told reporters Tuesday. "I will search for any constitution for us to have an election."

Gaining support for what would be the nation’s 20th constitution since 1932 could be difficult in a country still deeply divided after a decade of political unrest. A previous draft was rejected by a junta council that feared it could lead to more disputes. The drafters are seen as trying to limit the power of politicians and end the electoral dominance achieved by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose allied parties have won every ballot since 2001.

A draft of the new charter, written by a separate group of junta appointees, is expected to be released by the end of this month, with a final version due by the end of March. The proposed constitution could then be sent to a referendum in July.

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