A democratically elected government will take power in Thailand by December 2017, a senior Thai official said on Monday, after the country endorsed a military-backed constitution paving way for a general election.
Thais handed the junta of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha a convincing win in the referendum on Sunday, with preliminary results showing over 61 per cent voted in favour.
He said that the full results would be released on Wednesday.
Analysts said that a desire to see greater political stability drove the yes vote.
Thailand has been rocked by more than a decade of political turmoil that has stunted growth, two military takeovers and several rounds of often deadly street protests.
“We think there will be an election at the earliest in September or October 2017 and a new government by December 2017,” Chatchai Na Chiang Mai, spokesman for the Constitution Drafting Committee, said.
Deputy Prime Minister, Wissanu Krea-ngam, also said that an election will take place in 2017, confirming the timeline Prayuth laid out ahead of the referendum.
Prior to the vote, Thailand’s major political parties had criticised the draft constitution, saying it would constrict democracy, including one provision calling for an appointed senate with seats reserved for military commanders.
A second ballot question that would allow the Senate to elect a prime minister jointly with the lower house was also winning by a wide margin.
“Although many suspected that the new charter could undermine their previously held democratic rights.
“The perceived risk of greater political uncertainty and economic instability, if the constitution had been voted down, was far less appealing,” John Garrett,
Research Analyst Asia at the Economist Intelligence Unit said.
Interviews with military officers showed the military’s ambition was to make future coups unnecessary by weakening political parties and obliging future governments to follow a 20-year national development plan set by the Army.
Sunai Phasuk, Thailand Researcher at Human Rights Watch, said that the referendum result would legitimise the junta’s bid to extend its hold on power through the constitution.
“It will embolden junta leader Prayuth to think he has millions of Thais behind him and it will extend military control not for one or two years but 20 years,” Sunai said.
Thai investors welcomed the result on Monday and the Thai stock market touched a fresh 16-month high.
“The ‘yes’ vote would be positive for the economy and investment in the second half of 2016, Bank of Thailand Governor, Veerathai Santiphrabhob, said.