Thailand Supreme Court Refuses To Disband Political Party

 

By Luis Ramirez
Bangkok
18 January 2008

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Thailand’s Supreme Court has refused to disband the party made up of supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted in a 2006 military coup. Analysts see the court’s action as yet another step toward the eventual return of Mr. Thaksin. VOA’s Luis Ramirez reports from Bangkok.

Former Thailand PM Thaksin Shinawatra listens to reporters questions during a press conference in Hong Kong, 25 Dec 2007

Thaksin Shinawatra, 25 Dec 2007

Thailand’s Supreme Court said Friday it had no jurisdiction to rule whether Mr. Thaksin’s supporters committed fraud in the recent parliamentary elections by serving as a proxy to the ousted leader – who is banned from politics.

The court’s action is another indication that Mr. Thaksin’s opponents’ efforts to keep him out of politics in Thailand are failing.

With the former leader’s Thai Rak Thai party disbanded after the 2006 coup, his supporters formed the People Power Party, which won the largest number of parliamentary seats in an election last month. The court ruling clears the way for the PPP to announce a new government on Saturday.

PPP supporters and party officials, including its candidate for prime minister, Samak Sundaravej, say they want to bring Mr. Thaksin back to Thailand. He is currently in Hong Kong, monitoring political developments at home.

Thai electoral law bans candidates from being reelected by proxy, and that was the argument used in the suit filed against the PPP by Thaksin opponents. Politics professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University says the court had to balance its obligation to uphold the law, against a need to prevent protests that would deepen Thailand’s political crisis.

“On the one hand there is the law, and I think many people do see that the PPP and Samak as its leader are proxies of Thaksin,” said Thitinan. “On the other hand, if that is grounds for dissolution of the party, then it would bring about more turmoil in Thai politics.”

In another ruling Friday, the court threw out a petition to annul some of the results of the December 23 election that favored the PPP.

Thaksin opponents’ efforts have been relentless. They carried out the 2006 military coup, disbanded his original party, leveled corruption charges against him and his wife, and caused him to remain in exile.

Supporters of Thailand's People's Power Party cheer election returns at the party's headquarters  in Bangkok, 23 Dec 2007

Supporters of Thailand’s People’s Power Party cheer election returns at the party’s headquarters  in Bangkok, 23 Dec 2007

Still, his supporters’ strong showing in the December election, and now the Supreme Court’s rulings, are signs that Mr. Thaksin is making a comeback.

Mr. Thaksin’s opponents are mainly among the military, and the urban middle and upper classes, who despise him in part for the corruption that was rife during his administration. He was also accused of disrespecting the revered Thai king.

His supporters are mainly the country’s poor, who were drawn by his populist agenda.

Despite rapid economic growth, much of Thailand’s population lives in poverty, and Professor Thitinan says Mr. Thaksin owes his continued popularity to his shrewd exploitation of the country’s gap between rich and poor.

“Poor people love him in the countryside and in Bangkok and this explains his populist agenda,” he said. “His success explains his resilience and the PPP’s longevity and PPP’s popularity. This is why the establishment has been unable to finish Thaksin off politically.”

The rulings Friday clear the way for the PPP to form a coalition government led by Thaksin supporters. Party officials say they plan to announce the formation of a six-party coalition on Saturday.

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Thailand’s PPP move closer to power

By Amy Kazmin in Bangkok

Published: January 18 2008 12:36 | Last updated: January 18 2008 12:36

A Thai political party loyal to Thaksin Shinawatra, the ousted former prime minister, appeared poised to take power after the Supreme Court on Friday dismissed a legal petition calling for the invalidation of its victory in December elections.

In its verdict, the Supreme Court said that it had no jurisdiction to rule on claims that the People’s Power Party, and its leader Samak Sundaravej, should be disqualified from the election because they were illegal “proxies” for Mr Thaksin, and his now-defunct Thai Rak Thai party.

The court’s decision removes the greatest remaining hurdle to the PPP’s formation of a government, following its December 23 election victory in which it fell just short of an overall majority in a new parliament.

The party, which was openly endorsed by the exiled Mr Thaksin before the election, has already cemented an alliance with two other medium-sized, and two small parties, which will give it a strong parliamentary majority.

Chris Baker, author of several books on Thai politics, said the verdict appeared to reflect the “un-knotting” of Thailand’s two-year-old political crisis, which pitted Mr Thaksin against the country’s royalist elite. The conflict reached its apogee in the September 2006 military coup that drove Mr Thaksin from power.

Recent days have seen several signals suggesting that Mr Thaksin’s loyalists, and his military rivals, were coming towards an agreement that would possibly help end the destructive conflict that has paralysed Thai policy-making for the last two years.

Potjamarn Shinawatra, Mr Thaksin’s wife, returned to Thailand after months abroad, to face charges of malfeasance. Police officers close to Mr Thaksin, a former policeman, have been restored to influential positions. Thai media have also reported that the PPP is willing to appoint a defence minister close to coup-makers.

However, Thitinan Pongsudhirak, a Chulalongkorn University political scientist, said the judges’ failure to rule definitively on the substance of the charges that the PPP was an illegal proxy leaves open the prospect that the case could be brought before the Constitutional Court, which the Supreme Court deemed the appropriate authority.

Mr Thitinan said the case would likely remain pending over the new government – to ensure that it does not take action deemed too threatening to the established elite. “Dissolution is still a possibility down the road,” he said. “If the people who overthrew Thaksin are cornered, they could resort to something like this.”

Many Thais are hoping that the installation of the first elected government since the 2006 coup will bring a much-needed return to normality, and a greater focus on policy-making to resolve problems such as a sluggish economy, and a worsening insurgency in southern Thailand.

But analysts warn that the government – in which a number of controversial characters from Thailand’s past are expected to figure prominently – could quickly find itself embroiled in new crises.

Mr Samak, the right-wing warhorse who leads the PPP, is already involved in corruption cases dating to his tenure as Bangkok governor.

Mr Thaksin’s future also remains a question, though he has vowed to come back before April to battle the charges against him.

EDITOR’S CHOICE
Thai court to rule on PPP victory – Jan-15
Thai court to consider dissolving PPP – Jan-04
Thaksin makes plans to end exile – Dec-26
Thai parties get down to coalition-building – Dec-24
Voters deal Thai army a tricky hand – Dec-23
Thaksin allies win in snub to military – Dec-23

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POLITICS-THAILAND: Court Clears Path For Pro-Thaksin Gov’t

By Marwaan Macan-Markar
BANGKOK, Jan 18 (IPS) – Thailand came closer to having its first civilian government since the September 2006 coup on Friday after the supreme court threw out a case against the People Power Party (PPP), which won the most number of seats in the Dec. 23 general elections.

Friday’s verdict removed a hurdle that had come in the way of the new parliament convening its first session a month after the poll. The apex court ruled that it had no authority to hear the case, pointing out that the proper arbiter of the political dispute at hand was this South-east Asian nation’s constitution tribunal.

The lawsuit against the PPP was filed by a member of the Democrat Party, which won the second highest number of seats in a tussle that had 31 political parties vying for places in the 480-member parliament. While the PPP won 233 seats, some of which were nullified later by the elections commission (EC), the Democrats secured 165 seats.

What the court steered away from deciding was whether the PPP was acting as a proxy for the Thai Rak Thai (Thais Love That- TRT) party. The TRT was the party led by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted from power by the military in the country’s 18th coup on Sep. 19, 2006. In May last year, a special tribunal appointed by the junta banned the TRT for violating the laws of a poll in 2006. Thaksin and 110 TRT leaders were also banned from politics for five years.

According to Chaiwat Sinsuwong, the plaintiff, the PPP was violating election laws by presenting itself as a proxy of the TRT during the campaign for the December poll. The PPP, in fact, did not shy away from its links to the TRT in the run up to the elections. It openly declared that it would implement some of the popular programmes of the TRT that had won wide support within the electorate, enabling it to secure thumping parliamentary majorities at the 2001 and 2005 general elections.
The court also ruled against another charge — out of the four brought before it — that was levelled by the Democrat’s Chiwat. That focused on a complaint about video compact discs (VCDs) of Thaksin that had been distributed to sections of the electorate to sway them into voting for the PPP.

Here again, the court ruled it had no authority, reports the website of the ‘Bangkok Post’ newspaper. ‘’The case is under the authority of the Election Commission,’’ the English-language daily said, quoting the legal body.

‘’If the court had not ruled this way, it would have created a major crisis for democracy in the country,’’ Giles Ungpakorn, a political scientist at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, told IPS. ‘’This will now pave the way for a new government.’’

PPP officials have welcomed the verdict, according to members of the party IPS spoke with. Doubts had emerged about the PPP being able to form a new government after the elections. Besides the court case, the party was also faulted by the EC for allegedly committing electoral fraud in some constituencies. And then there were sections of the Thai press that raised questions on the suitability of Samak Sundaravej, a combative political figure and leader of the PPP, as prime ministerial candidate. The PPP leader had made no bones about acting the part of Thaksin’s proxy during the campaign and vowed to reinstate the populist policies pursued by the banned TRT.

The PPP’s victory, which was just short of a simple majority, was not well received by sections of this kingdom’s political elite, bureaucrats, palace loyalists and the junta that ruled the country for the past 16 months. The latter was pushing for parties other than the PPP with support from the urban electorate in Bangkok, where most votes were cast in favour of the Democrats.

But the PPP scored heavily in the country’s north and north-eastern provinces, former strongholds of the TRT, where a large slice of the rural poor live. Thailand’s rural and urban poor make up the largest vote bank out of the estimated 44.2 million eligible voters.

‘’The country will now have to accept the election’s verdict,’’ says Giles. ‘’The elite should not try to put anymore hurdles to stop the PPP forming a government.’’
Signs of reconciliation were very much on display as the week drew to an end, with the PPP announcing that it had secured commitments from six other parties to form a coalition, thus giving the new administration close to 320 seats. Included in this alliance will be the Chart Thai (Thai Nation) party and the Puea Pandin (For the Motherland) party.

Both these middle-size parties had held out from joining a PPP-led alliance during the past weeks, feeding the sense of uncertainty that gripped the country. While Chart Thai won 37 seats, Puea Pandin won 24 at the December poll, but, like it happened to the PPP and the Democrats, some of the winning candidates were disqualified or compelled to face a re-run for their respective seats by the EC.

‘’All coalition members had agreed (that) the prime minister should come from People Power,’’ Surapong Suebwonglee, secretary-general of the PPP, was quoted as having said in Friday’s edition of ‘The Nation’ newspaper.

Thailand has had a long history of coalition governments, some of them so fragile that they barely lasted two years. During the early 1990s, there were new coalition governments formed every year over a four-year period. The only break from this pattern came during the five years of the Thaksin administration, since the TRT had won enough seats to form a majority.

(END/2008)

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Thailand Supreme Court Refuses To Disband Political Party
Voice of America –
By Luis Ramirez Thailand’s Supreme Court has refused to disband the party made up of supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted
Thai Supreme Court Dismisses Legal Challenges Against PPP
Voice of America –
By VOA News Thailand’s Supreme Court has dismissed legal challenges to the election victory of a political party that supports deposed Prime Minister
Thailand’s Supreme Court Lifts Obstacles to Thaksin’s Allies
Wall Street Journal –
By JAMES HOOKWAY BANGKOK — Allies of ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra took an important step Friday toward forming Thailand’s next government after
Thai Supreme Court rejects party dissolution case
Xinhua, China –
BANGKOK, Jan. 18 (Xinhua) — The Supreme Court of Thailand on Friday said it has no power to rule case about if the People Power Party (PPP) is the proxy of
Court clears Thaksin ally’s poll win
Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia –
THAILAND’S Supreme Court cleared the way for allies of ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra to form a government, rejecting legal challenges to their victory
Verdict favours pro-Thaksin party
Aljazeera.net, Qatar –
The highest court in Thailand has dismissed charges of election violations by a party affiliated with Thaksin Shinawatra, the deposed prime minister.
Thai court declines to rule on key election issue
Reuters India, India –
BANGKOK (Reuters) – Thailand’s Supreme Court said on Friday it had no jurisdiction to rule whether the People Power Party (PPP) was a proxy for ousted Prime
Thai court clears Thaksin allies
BBC News, UK –
Thailand’s Supreme Court has dismissed a suit seeking to dissolve the People Power Party (PPP), which won the most votes in December’s general election.
POLITICS-THAILAND: Court Clears Path For Pro-Thaksin Gov’t
Inter Press Service (subscription), Italy –
By Marwaan Macan-Markar BANGKOK, Jan 18 (IPS) – Thailand came closer to having its first civilian government since the September 2006 coup on Friday after
Thai coalition clears last hurdle before forming government
Earthtimes, UK –
Bangkok – A Thai coalition government backed by former premier Thaksin Shinawatra is to enter parliament next week after the Supreme Court Friday threw out
Thai court dismisses challenge to victory by party of ousted prime
PR-Inside.com (Pressemitteilung), Austria –
© AP BANGKOK, Thailand (AP) – Thailand’s Supreme Court cleared the way Friday for a political party linked to ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra to
Thai court upholds validity of early voting
Hemscott, UK –
BANGKOK (Thomson Financial) – Thailand’s Supreme Court on Friday upheld the legitimacy of last month’s general elections, tossing out a complaint accusing

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