Thai poll body to rule on princess' PM bid after king's rebuke

Blanche Robertson
February 12, 2019

That ends a bold gambit by the anti-military coalition to boost its popularity and insulate itself against charges of being anti-monarchy, by having the king's flamboyant older sister Ubolratana run for prime minister, although her nomination can not be legally withdrawn.

On Friday, the Thai Raksa Chart, allied with former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, a pet peeve of the ruling military, announces the candidacy of the princess, eldest sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn.

"All members of the royal family have to abide by the principle of being above politics and politically neutral", it said in a statement.

After unusually blunt criticism from King Vajiralongkorn, the Thai Raksa Chart party had no choice but to accept his instruction that members of the royal family could not be brought into politics.

In a statement, the commission said that its decision was based on a royal command issued on Friday, in which King Vajiralongkorn called his sister's bid "extremely inappropriate" and "against the nation's traditions, culture and customs".

The parliamentary elections of March 24, repeatedly postponed by the junta, aim to establish a democratically elected government.

The 67-year-old princess returned to Thailand in 1998 after divorcing her husband and quickly resumed royal duties but was not given her titles back.

The election commission's statement on Monday did not mention the Thai Raksa Chart party.

Yesterday, the Election Commission (EC) formally scratched her candidacy.

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This will upset its strategy to help Pheu Thai scoop up as many parliamentary seats as possible and get around a post-coup system meant to cap the number of seats that big parties like Pheu Thai can win.

The commissioners voted to shoot down the nomination just three days after His Majesty the King barred Princess Ubolratana Mahidol, 68, from the race for the top government job on the grounds that royal family members can not get involved in politics.

The royal family has a long-standing tradition of staying out of politics, and electoral law forbids parties from using the monarchy in campaigns.

Shortly after the king's statement she posted again without addressing the issue directly, simply thanking Thais for their support and saying that she wanted Thailand to "move forward and become admired and accepted by the worldwide community".

Thai Raksa Chart's executive chairman Chaturon Chaisaeng declined to comment on the request to disband it.

The Thai general election this year "had been broadly viewed as a straightforward battle between Thaksin's populists and their allies, on the one hand, and the royalist-military establishment on the other", according to CNA.

Prime Minister, army general Prayut Chan-o-cha, - who is preparing for the first elections since he took power in a 2014 military coup - dismissed the rumours as 'fake news'.

"Things are now more unpredictable", Titipol told Reuters.

Thaksin, who was ousted in a 2006 coup, lives in self-imposed exile after being convicted of corruption in absentia.

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