Thailand's elections could be delayed until 2016

  • 26 November 2014
  • From the section Business
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Media captionThailand's finance minister Sommai Phasee said elections could be one and a half years away

Thailand's Finance Minister Sommai Phasee has told the BBC that democratic elections could be delayed and not occur for another 18 months.

Prayuth Chan-ocha, the prime minister who heads the military government, in control of the country since a coup d'etat in May, had said that they could hold democratic elections in a year's time, at the end of 2015.

But the finance minister tells me that they discussed it last week.

He says it could be "a year and a half".

Sommai Phasee said: "As announced by the prime minister, it would take about one year. But, from my feeling, I think it may take, maybe, a year and a half."

The delay means that Thailand wouldn't return to democracy until the middle of 2016.

Mr Phasee also confirmed that there is no end date for martial law as "it's something that he [the Prime Minister] needs as his tool to deal with security."

Thailand's economy has been stagnant this year. After contracting at the start of the year, the economy has barely grown. Mr Phasee expects GDP growth to be just 1-1.2% this year.

Business confidence hit

When I asked him when the economy could return to trend growth rates, he pointed to the second quarter of next year when he said that GDP could expand by 4-5%.

The Thai military government will spend to boost the economy, he says, and increase subsidies to farmers as one of a number of short-term stimulus measures.

Since the coup, Thailand's economy has been hit by a fall in tourism, a decline in exports, and weak domestic demand that has affected the car industry, among others.

Ongoing political uncertainty has dented business confidence.

The chief executive of Siam Cement, one of the country's largest companies that is effectively controlled by the monarchy, Kan Trakulhoon tells me that he wants to see democracy restored soon.

Siam Cement has managed the downturn by changing their strategy to focus on exports as domestic demand has weakened. He, though, also expects a rebound in the domestic economy towards the end of the year.