Princess Formally Disqualified From PM Nomination

Nellie Chapman
February 12, 2019

Thailand's Election Commission is set to meet on Monday to decide whether to punish the party that put forward Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi as its candidate for prime minister.

The Thailand princess' party faces pressure to dissolve even though it has obeyed the king's command to withdraw her nomination as prime ministerial candidate.

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

Although she relinquished her title in 1972, and sometimes refers to herself as a "commoner", Princess Ubolratana "has been maintaining her status as a member of the Chakri royal family", a statement by King Maha Vajiralongkorn, released last Friday night, stressed.

The March 24 elections are the first since a 2014 military coup toppled a pro-Thaksin government.

A total of 500 elected members of parliament and 250 senators selected by the ruling National Council for Peace and Order will jointly vote to choose the new prime minister.

Today, an activist said he would file a petition to disqualify the Thai Raksa Chart party, which nominated the princess.

Her choice of party was notable because the party is associated with the political machine of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 coup after being accused of abuse of power and disrespect for the monarchy.

Andrew MacGregor Marshall, a lecturer at Edinburgh Napier University and expert in Thai politics, said that "when the military starts publicly insisting that no coup is coming, this is often a sign that they are about to seize power again".

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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.

A chastened Thai Raksa Chart, a key pillar in the election strategy of billionaire ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, swiftly agreed to comply with the command.

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".

Members of the Phalang Pracharat party - which is aligned with the military - were jubilant following the weekend's upheaval and its party leaders took to the streets, campaigning in a 60-vehicle convoy, to tout their tradition-abiding credentials.

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

Meanwhile, the fate of Thai Raksa Chart hangs in the balance.

Thailand's current Prime Minister, Prayuth Chan-ocha, led the 2014 coup and is now widely expected to be re-elected.

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

Thaksin, who has been in exile to avoid a jail sentence on a conflict of interest conviction, is believed by many to have played a role in establishing Ubolratana's candidacy.

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