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Thailand sets date of first general election since 2014 coup

Thailand sets date of first general election since 2014 coup
A Thai pedestrian pushes his bicycle next to used ballot boxes in storage outside a district office Jan. 23 in Bangkok. (Rungroj Yongrit / EPA/Shutterstock)

Thailand's Election Commission on Wednesday announced that the nation's first general election since the military seized power in a 2014 coup will be held on March 24.

The long-awaited announcement came just hours after Thailand's royal palace issued a decree authorizing the polls.

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The decree published Wednesday in the Royal Gazette put into effect election laws that were drafted by the military government, which has kept tight control over political activities and made efforts to quash dissent.

The ruling junta has repeatedly pushed back several promised election deadlines — at least once every year since the May 2014 overthrow of the democratically elected government. This is the first time a poll date has been made official.

The most recent promised election date of Feb. 24 had to be abandoned because the decree giving the go-ahead was not issued as expected earlier this month, leaving not enough time to prepare for the polls.

Anti-junta protesters have staged sporadic demonstrations on Bangkok's streets in recent months, demanding there be no further delays.

The government had announced earlier this month that coronation ceremonies for King Maha Vajiralongkorn would take place in early May, which had also fueled speculation that the poll date could be delayed.

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