Political Earthquakes as Thai Election Nears

Written by Putt Punyagupta

The Electoral Commission of Thailand has recommended the dissolution of the Thai Raksa Chart Party, citing grave violations of electoral rules by drawing the monarchy into politics.

This statement comes after the prime ministerial bid by Princess Ubolratana, the sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn, was disqualified a few days after the party nominated her as a candidate. The Thai Raksa Chart Party is a known  offshoot of the Pheu Thai Party and is thus aligned with former fugitive prime ministers Thaksin Shinawatra and Yingluck Shinawatra.

Thailand’s Constitutional Court will assume the case and adjudicate as to whether the dissolution of the party is warranted, though it is unclear when such a decision will be made. This judgement will follow a slew of court decisions shutting down parties affiliated with these former prime ministers during the tenure of the military government.

Should the party be disbanded, it is estimated that the bloc seeking political office aligned to former PM Thaksin Shinawatra will lose over 200 candidates, just a month short of the election scheduled for March 24. Thai Raksa Chart is one of three parties loyal to the former leader. Nonetheless, the party leader Preechapol Pongpanich stated that the party would remain committed to campaigning for that election as normal.

His Majesty the King himself stated on national television on February 8th that the monarchy remains a unifying pillar of the nation. As such, members of the royal family must not participate in politics in violation of  a nearly century-long tradition after a constitutional monarchy system was implemented in the country in 1932. The following day, Thai Raksa Chart publicly announced that they had accepted the judgment of the king.

The military government repeatedly rescheduled the long-promised elections before the final March 24 date. This round of elections will see the Thai people elect a 500-person House of Representatives, while the 250-person senate is to be totally appointed by the military National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO). Pro-democracy activists lament that this election is already skewed in the favor of the ruling military government, who aim to return as civilian politicians.