Thailand election: Thai princess to stand as PM candidate

Blanche Robertson
February 8, 2019

According to a party statement following her nomination, Ubolratana first became interested in politics when she led an anti-drug campaign among Thai youths and hosted a TV talk show giving advice to teenagers.

Executives of the party arrived at the EC office at the Government Complex after announcing they would have only one candidate for prime minister - what they called "an important person outside the party".

Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich said: "The party has nominated the princess as its sole candidate".

Although her father's favorite, she was virtually disowned by him in 1972 when she married an American who was a fellow student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The announcement means a royal-fronted party tied to the Shinawatras will directly take on the military party, whose own candidate was also announced Friday as junta leader Prayut Chan-O-Cha.

Thailand has been a constitutional monarchy since 1932 but the royal family has wielded great influence and commands the devotion of millions.

Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, 67, broke the long-standing tradition of Thai royalty staying out of politics by entering the election in an unprecedented move.

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Her relationship with her brother, King Vajiralongkorn, is less clear.

Political analysts see the shocking move as a further political complication in the South-East Asian country ahead of its first election since the 2014 coup and return to democracy.

But the pro-Thaksin side was always likely to win the largest share of the seats; with a royal candidate for prime minister it has an additional, significant advantage, given the nearly instinctive reverence for royalty among many Thais.

Pundits were left guessing whether the princess' nomination was a bid to unify those divisions, with the approval of the king who assumed the throne after the death of his father in 2016, or a bold gambit by Thaksin loyalists to undercut the royalist appeal of the pro-establishment parties.

Ubolratana is running for prime minister but not a seat in parliament, which is allowed under the election law.

Arriving at the Election Commission this afternoon, the head of the pro-junta People's Reform Party asked the commission to reject the newly declared candidacy of Ubolratana Mahidol. She returned to Thailand in the late 1990s after getting a divorce.

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