Published: Fri, March 08, 2019
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Thailand court bans party that nominated princess for PM

Thailand court bans party that nominated princess for PM

The ruling against the Thai Raksa Chart (TRC) party and Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi strikes a blow to the opposition's plans to defeat Thailand's military junta in elections on March 24.

In a ruling announced on Thursday afternoon, Thailand's constitutional court declared that Thai Raksa Chart, a political party formed only in October previous year, had violated the constitution by putting forward Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, the older sister of the king, to be its chosen candidate for prime minister.

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 almost five years.

TRC illegitimately nominated the princess as its prime ministerial candidate on February 8.

"Today, I'd like to continue to work for Thailand", she said in an Instagram post Wednesday, hashtagged "#Doittogether".

Her brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, later that day issued a royal order calling the nomination highly inappropriate and unconstitutional. "It is sad and depressing", she said.

Grim-faced party executives, all dressed in black suits and led by party chief Preechapol Pongpanich, filed out of the Constitutional Court through the ranks of media.

Conversely, its downfall - the party lasted just four months - is a major fillip to its army-allied rivals who are fielding current junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha as their candidate for premier.

The political party includes members who have remained loyal to former Prime Ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and his sister, Yingluck Shinawatra. Thaksin, like his younger sister, Yingluck, was overthrown in a military coup in 2006.

There were tears among the smattering of die-hard Shinawatra supporters gathered near the court. "We have fought for it for more than 10 years", Oye, 51, told AFP, giving only one name.

Thais last voted in a general election in 2011 and have returned Shinawatra-linked parties at every poll since 2001.

Pheu Thais' electoral dominance has been cast into doubt by a new system crafted by the junta specifically to limit the number of seats it can win.

"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.

However, there is also speculation that Thai Raksa Chart supporters may be energized by the perception their side is being victimized again by the anti-Thaksin establishment, and they may offer important support for parties with a similar anti-military stance, even if they are not pro-Thaksin.

But Thursday's court ruling raises the odds of a broad - and potentially uncomfortable - pro-democracy alliance as the only route back to power for the Shinawatras.

The country is deeply divided between those who loathe the military and fear its return to office after elections, and the anti-Thaksin camp. Thaksin went in exile in 2008 to avoid serving jail time on a corruption conviction he insists was politically motivated.

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