Thai Court to Rule on Banning People Power Party After Election Win

By VOA News
15 January 2008

Thailand’s Supreme Court will rule Friday whether to ban the People Power Party for violating election laws. The PPP won general elections last month, but fell short of a majority.

A member of the Democrat Party, which came in second behind the PPP, brought the case Tuesday before the Supreme Court for Election Operations.

The Democrat candidate accused the PPP of being a front for deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai (Thais love Thais) Party, which was dissolved after a September, 2006 military coup.

He argued that Mr. Thaksin and other leading members of the PPP were barred from politics for five years, but were being reelected by proxy.

Thailand’s Election Commission is investigating 65 PPP winners for alleged electoral fraud. Three have been disqualified so far.

PPP officials say the investigation amounts to a dirty trick by Thaksin opponents to stop them from forming a government by a January 23 deadline.

The PPP victory was seen as a rejection of the generals and royalist establishment that tried to oust Mr. Thaksin from power.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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Thai court to rule on PPP victory

By Amy Kazmin in Bangkok

Published: January 15 2008 15:36 | Last updated: January 15 2008 15:36

Thailand’s Supreme Court is to rule on Friday whether last month’s election victory by the People’s Power party, loyal to the ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, should be nullified – a verdict that would be seen by critics as a second coup.

The ruling will come just days before the scheduled opening on Monday of the new parliament, elected on December 23 in polls supervised by the government installed after the military seized power in a September 2006 coup against Mr Thaksin’s administration.

Somchai Phagaphasvivat, a Thammasat University political scientist, said a verdict ordering the dissolution of the PPP would plunge Thailand into “terrible turmoil” and would be interpreted by the party’s supporters as “a coup by law”.

“If the dissolution of the PPP is a reality, Thailand is back to step one – to the dictatorial situation,” Mr Somchai said. “Even if a new government could be set up, it would lack democratic legitimacy to rule.”

The PPP, a refuge for Mr Thaksin’s loyalists after his ruling Thai Rak Thai (Thais love Thais) party was dissolved by military tribunal, emerged victorious from the elections, falling just eight seats short of an outright parliamentary majority.

It says it has already cemented alliances with three smaller parties that would give it a narrow parliamentary majority, and two medium-sized parties were expected formally to join the coalition this week.

But the rival Democrat party – which came a distant second in the polls – challenged the PPP’s victory in court, arguing that the party was just a proxy for the now banned Thai Rak Thai.

The case also claimed the circulation of video CDs in which Mr Thaksin urged voters to support the PPP violated Thai election laws because he has been banned from politics for five years.

An official representing the Supreme Court, which accepted the case last week, said the three-judge panel did not need to hear oral testimony because it had sufficient documentary evidence. The official also said the case would rest on interpretations of the law.

Thailand’s new election law, drafted after the military coup, contains broad provisions allowing the dissolution of political parties, and the banning of politicians for any action deemed to undermine democracy or national security. Analysts say the law gives the courts broad latitude to act.

If the PPP is dissolved, its 35 executives will be banned from politics for five years. But analysts say other newly elected PPP members could probably remain in parliament, and would be a powerful faction in the legislature.

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