Thai court bans party for nominating princess for PM

March 08, 2019 08:18
Thai Raksa Chart party leader Preechapol Pongpanich and members of his party speak to the media after hearing the verdict at the Constitutional Court in Bangkok on Thursday. Photo: Reuters

A Thai court on Thursday ordered the dissolution of an opposition party for nominating the king’s sister as its candidate for prime minister in a March 24 election, Reuters reports.

Banning the Thai Raksa Chart party just over two weeks before the general election struck a blow to opposition parties’ chances of defeating parties allied to the military junta that has ruled for nearly five years, the news agency said.

“The court has ordered that the party be dissolved,” Judge Taweekiet Meenakanit said in the Constitutional Court ruling, which also banned the party’s executive board members from politics for 10 years.

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 establishment parties, including one that has junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha as its prime ministerial candidate.

Opposition parties say Prayuth’s candidacy, combined with electoral laws allowing the junta to appoint the 250-seat upper house Senate, could result in an elected government that extends military influence.

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.

The Election Commission asked the court to dissolve the party after it nominated Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi for prime minister, which the commission described as “antagonistic toward the constitutional monarchy”.

The princess relinquished her royal titles in 1972 but is still officially treated as a senior member of the royal family, which is highly revered in Thailand.

King Maha Vajiralongkorn strongly opposed his sister’s nomination, calling it “inappropriate” and unconstitutional and her candidacy was swiftly disqualified by the Election Commission.

While Thai Raksa Chart is not the largest pro-Thaksin party, dissolving it would weaken his supporters’ strategy of fielding several separate parties in the hope of securing more seats for Thaksin loyalists, Reuters said.

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