BANGKOK – The Election Commission of Thailand announced on Wednesday that it is seeking the dissolution of the party that recently nominated the elder sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn as its candidate for prime minister in the upcoming polls.
On Friday, the Thai Raksa Chart Party filed the nomination of Princess Ubolratana Mahidol as its sole candidate.
Now, the Constitutional Court will decide on whether to dissolve the party. Officials are scheduled to meet Thursday afternoon to consider the petition.
In a statement, the commission said the princess’ nomination as a prime ministerial candidate would “go against the constitutional monarchy.”
Thai Raksa Chart Party issued its own statement on Wednesday vowing to fight the commission’s decision to dissolve the group.
Late on Tuesday night, the princess posted a message on Instagram to apologize for the controversy her nomination had caused.
“I am sorry that my sincere intention to work for the country and my fellow Thai people has caused a problem that should never occur in our time,” Ubolratana said.
The ECT’s announcement comes a day after the political party said after a meeting at its Bangkok headquarters that it would go ahead with its election campaign.
The princess’ unexpected nomination was effectively blocked in a matter of hours Friday when King Vajiralongkorn released a televised statement calling his sister’s candidacy “extremely inappropriate.”
The nomination of Ubolratana – who relinquished her royal titles in 1972 following her marriage to an American – caused a huge stir in Thailand, a country where the monarch is revered but whose members have traditionally stayed out of politics.
On Saturday, the party announced the withdrawal of the princess’ candidacy, and on Monday the ECT confirmed her disqualification citing text from the royal statement, leaving Thai Raksa Chart without a prime ministerial candidate.
The dissolution of the party would imply banning members of its executive from politics for 10 years and prevent them from contesting the upcoming elections on March 24, even as members of other parties.
According to Thai law, the candidates should have been members of a political party for at least 90 days before the elections to be able to contest through that political group.
Thai Raksa Chart Party is linked to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, whose Puea Thai Party has won every election held since 2001, owing to support among the rural population of the northeast thanks to his populist policies, but his growing power generated hostility within the army and the Bangkok elite.
Shinawatra was deposed in 2006 in a coup and has been living in self-imposed exile since 2008. His sister Yingluck won the 2011 elections, but her government was overthrown in another coup in 2014 and she joined her brother in exile.
The March elections will be the first to be held in the country since 2014, when the vote was annulled by the Constitutional Court.
The group loyal to Shinawatra is contesting the elections through three different blocs – Puea Thai, Thai Raksa Chart and Puea Chart – because of an electoral law drafted by the military junta that bans large political parties.