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Party that nominated Thai princess for PM faces ban after king’s rebuke

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FILE PHOTO: Thai Raksa Chart party leader Preechapol Pongpanich, holds up application of candidate for Prime Minister, Thailand's Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, at the election commission office in Bangkok, Thailand - REUTERS

BANGKOK (Reuters): The Thai political party that nominated a princess as its candidate for Prime Minister could be banned from a general election in March after an activist said 

yesterday he would file a petition seeking its dissolution.

Thailand’s Election Commission is to meet today to consider the candidacy of Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, 67, who stunned the nation on Friday when she said she would be the Prime Ministerial candidate for a populist party loyal to ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Her announcement drew a swift rebuke from King Maha Vajiralongkorn, the princess’s younger brother, who issued a statement hours later saying it was “inappropriate” for members of the royal family to enter politics.

The 24 March election is the first since a military coup in 2014 toppled an elected pro-Thaksin government. The current junta leader, Prayuth Chan-ocha, is also contesting the race for Prime Minister as the candidate of a pro-military party.

The nomination of the King’s elder sister, who has starred in soap operas and an action movie and gave up her royal titles after marrying an American, was a shocking move by forces loyal to Thaksin, who faces an uphill battle in the election.

The Election Commission has until Friday to rule on the princess’s candidacy. It is unlikely its members would disregard the wishes of the King, who while a constitutional monarch, is considered semi-divine in Thai society. On Sunday, an activist said he would file a petition to disqualify the Thai Raksa Chart party, which nominated the princess. “The royal announcement made it clear that the party violated electoral law,” Srisuwan Janya, Secretary-General of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution, told Reuters. If the party is dissolved, it could give more seats to anti-Thaksin affiliated parties like the pro-junta, Phalang Pracharat and progressive Future Forward party, he said.

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

He responded to the events on Twitter late on Saturday telling supporters to “keep moving forward” and “learn from past experiences but live for today and the future”.

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