March 08, 2019 00:31:12
A Thai court has ordered the dissolution of an opposition party that named the king’s sister as its prime ministerial candidate just over two weeks before the country’s election.
- The party’s board members have been banned from politics for 10 years
- The March 24 election will be the first since the military seized power in 2014
- The Thai Raksa Chart was aligned to ousted PM Thaksin Shinawatra
The March 24 election is the first for Thailand since the military seized power in a 2014 coup.
The Thai Raksa Chart Party last month nominated Princess Ubolratana Mahidol to run for prime minister against military junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha.
The decision, initially thought to have been with the consent of her brother King Maha Vajiralongkorn, was swiftly condemned by the monarch, who said her candidacy was inappropriate and unconstitutional.
“The court has ordered that the party be dissolved,” Judge Taweekiet Meenakanit said in the Constitutional Court ruling.
The court also banned the party’s executive board members from politics for 10 years.
The Election Commission asked the court to dissolve the party, saying the appointment of the princess was “antagonistic toward the constitutional monarchy”.
The princess relinquished her royal titles in 1972 after marrying an American commoner but she is still officially treated as a senior member of the royal family, which is highly revered in Thailand.
Police had deployed more than 1,000 officers in and around the court and cordoned off the surrounding area ahead of the ruling.
Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich, who was visibly emotional, told reporters outside the court the party accepted the ruling.
“We all had good intentions for the country,” he said.
Supporters were seen crying, saying they would vote instead for other opposition parties.
Tactical moves before national poll
Thai Raksa Chart is one of several parties loyal to ousted former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra in an election that broadly pits his supporters against parties allied to the military junta that has ruled for nearly five years.
Mr Thaksin lives in self-exile to avoid a corruption conviction he says was politically motivated.
Parties aligned to his populist policies have won every election since 2001, but changes in electoral laws have effectively diluted the popular vote, with new rules and a complex formula benefitting smaller parties over top vote-winning parties.
Because the main pro-Thaksin party, the Pheu Thai Party, will be limited under the new rules, Thai Raksa Chart and other pro-Thaksin parties were formed to reap the benefits awarded to smaller parties.
“Thai Raksa Chart is deployed tactically to mop up party-list seats to complement Pheu Thai,” Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a political scientist at Chulalongkorn University, said before the ruling.
“It was plausible in view of the princess’s short-lived candidacy that the Thaksin-aligned parties even had a shot at a simple majority had her nomination not been nullified.”