The court on Thursday dissolved a key party aligned with former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra for what was deemed a serious violation of elections law.
In a unanimous ruling, the nine Constitutional Court judges said Thai Raksa Chart broke the rules when it nominated a former princess to be prime minister last month, a move it had hoped would help it sail to victory at the poll.
Thai Raksa Chart’s demise comes less than three weeks before the first election since the military seized power nearly five years ago and launched a crusade to diminish Thaksin’s influence.
Read: Thai Net Reacts to Party Dissolution With Pungent Memes
The verdict is a replay of the fate that befell other pro-Thaksin parties dissolved by the same court in 2006 and 2008. Speaking to reporters after the verdict was read, party leader Preechapol Pongpanich said he accepted the decision and thanked everyone for their support.
In a live video feed from the courtroom, the tribunal said the nomination amounted to illegally drawing the monarchy into politics, which is proscribed by voting regulations.
Citing a wide range of legal precedents, from a letter penned by King Rama VII to a pledge uttered by past kings at their coronations, the court said His Majesty the King and other members of the monarchy must stay above politics and therefore cannot run for office.
The tribunal also ruled that Thai Raksa Chart nominated princess Ubolratana Mahidol – a sister of King Vajiralongkorn – as a “devious scheme” to score political advantage.
The ruling means the party is disbanded, its 214 candidates disqualified from the election and executives barred from politics for 10 years.
Upon its nomination of Ubolratana, the party argued she was a commoner because she had relinquished all royal titles four decades ago to marry an American.
But His Majesty the King decreed later that day that Ubolratana could not contest the March 24 election because because she remained a member of the royal family and must stay above politics. King Vajiralongkorn called the nomination “extremely inappropriate.”
His Majesty’s decree was echoed in the verdict handed down today.
There was no immediate reaction from Thai Raksa Chart, but the party said prior to the ruling that it would respect any outcome and would hold a news conference this afternoon.
Prior to the ruling, Thai Raksa Chart had fielded candidates nationwide to vie for both party list and constituency seats in the same alliance with three other parties loyal to Thaksin: Pheu Thai, Puea Chart and Prachachart.
The 13 executives barred from politics for 10 years are:
Ton Na Ranong