King blocks Thai princess' prime minister bid; pressure mounts to dissolve party

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That ends a bold gambit by the anti-military coalition to boost its popularity and insulate itself against charges of being anti-monarchy, by having the king's flamboyant older sister Ubolratana run for prime minister, although her nomination can not be legally withdrawn.

The decision brings to an end a weekend of feverish speculation in Thailand after two remarkable events on Friday.

Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavadi, 67, stunned Thailand when she was nominated by the Thai Raksa Chart party, aligned with ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his populist political movement.

In a world of strict decorum that defines Thai royal life, she stands out for her accessibility - she is an actress and singer, and replies to queries from the more than 97,000 followers of her Instagram account.

The party could be banned from the March 24 election after an activist said he would file a petition seeking its dissolution.

Analysts say the king's intervention would in any case have been likely to have led to the election commission disqualifying her from the 24 March election.

"The provisions also cover the queen, heir-apparent and royal family members close to the king", stressed the royal statement, adding that they "may not hold any political position, as it is against the intention of the constitutions and constitutional monarchy tradition". It is unlikely its members would disregard the wishes of the king, who while a constitutional monarch, is considered semi-divine in Thai society.

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"The royal announcement made it clear that the party violated electoral law", said Mr Srisuwan Janya, secretary-general of the Association for the Protection of the Constitution.

Thai Raksa Chart's Executive Chairman Chaturon Chaisaeng declined to comment on Sunday on the request to disband the party.

Reungkrai Leekijwatana, an official with the Thai Raksa Chart party, holds a copy of Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha's candidacy application as he speaks to members of the media at the office of the Election Commission in Bangkok, Thailand, on Monday, Feb. 11, 2019. In a statement, the party said it "will move forward into the election arena to solve problems for the country". His alleged involvement rattled royalists who see their campaign against Thaksin as a way to protect the monarchy.

Mr Prayut overthrew the democratic government of Yingluck Shinawatra, the younger sister of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

The election commission's statement on Monday did not mention the Thai Raksa Chart party.

Parties loyal to former telecommunications tycoon Thaksin have defeated pro-establishment parties to win every election since 2001, but since 2006 each of their governments have been removed by court rulings or coups.

Ubolratana's surprise nomination broke with a tradition for members of the royal family to stay out of politics.