Dhaka, Bangladesh
Thai polls regulator heeds king, blocks princess' candidacy

Thai polls regulator heeds king, blocks princess' candidacy

Bangkok, Feb 12: Thailand's Election Commission on Monday disqualified the sister of the country's king from becoming a candidate for prime minister in next month's general election, saying all royals have to be above politics and the monarchy must remain politically neutral, reports AP. The commission's decision came after her brother issued an order describing Princess Ubolratana Mahidol's political bid as inappropriate and unconstitutional. The Thai Raksa Chart Party last Friday registered Ubolratana as its candidate, defying precedent against royal involvement in politics. 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. A royal order late Friday night from King Maha Vajiralongkorn said tradition and law barred the princess from politics. Ubolratana's involvement was seen as a challenge to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha, who led a 2014 military coup and is favored to win the March 24 election, which 45 parties are contesting. The military, a bitter foe of the exiled Thaksin, is closely allied to the palace. Thai Raksa Chart on Saturday hastily issued a statement declaring its loyalty to the king and acceptance of his order, though it was technically too late to withdraw Ubolratana's candidacy. Another report adds: Thailand's election panel on Monday disqualified the sister of the king from running for prime minister, putting an end to a stunning, short- lived candidacy by echoing King Maha Vajiralongkorn's words that royalty should be "above politics". The Election Commission released the official list of parties' candidates for prime minister without the name of Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, 67, the king's elder sister. The list excluded Ubolratana "because every member of the royal family comes within the application of the same rule requiring the monarch to be above politics and to be politically neutral," the panel said in a statement after a meeting. The princess had accepted the nomination of the Thai Raksa Chart party, a populist movement drawn from supporters of ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who has been at the centre of more than a decade of turmoil in Thai politics. The March 24 elections are the first since a 2014 military coup toppled a pro-Thaksin government. Among the candidates for prime minister is the current junta leader Prayuth Chan-ocha, who as army chief led the coup. The panel did not mention a separate petition seeking to ban Thai Raksa Chart on the grounds that it violated election laws against using the monarchy in campaigning. Party leaders were not immediately available for comment and cancelled a press conference planned for Monday. - Reuters

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