BANGKOK — The electoral contest between the leader of Thailand’s ruling junta and a member of its royal family immediately became heated Friday when a pro-junta political party began legal maneuvers to end her candidacy before it could begin.
Arriving at the Election Commission this afternoon, the head of the pro-junta People’s Reform Party asked the commission to reject the newly declared candidacy of Ubolratana Mahidol.
“This is not about qualifications,” Paiboon Nititawan told reporters at the same venue where hours earlier the 67-year-old royal had been nominated. “The Election Commission has the final authority to approve or reject the nominations.”
The commission has offered no immediate response.
Paiboon said the monarchy is a sacred institution that must not be drawn into politics, and pointed to an election law which bans any mention or use of the monarchy for political advantage.
Paiboon, a law scholar who has served as a senator and a constitution drafter, also argued that a 2001 Constitutional Court verdict ruled that any royal family member “either born or appointed with” the title of mom chao (the least senior possible rank) must remain neutral in politics.
Ubolratana was granted the higher title of chao fa at her birth, which she relinquished to marry an American man in 1972 while a student.
In a statement published later online, Ubolratana said she was legally a commoner.
By seeking office, Ubolratana became the first member of the immediate royal family to do so, upending tradition and overturning all assumptions going into the March 24 vote.
Paiboon leads a party stacked with former activist opponents of the previous government, which was allied with former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Though Thaksin lives in exile, Thai Raksa Chart, which nominated Ubolratana, is one of several proxies for his influence.
Paiboon’s party has announced it will support junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha as the next prime minister.
“I don’t want to see any party disbanded. Personally, I don’t have any problem with Thai Raksa Chart,” Paiboon said.
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