The Constitution Court has not only dissolved the People Power Party, it has also banned him and other 36 party executives from politics for five years.
As a result, Somchai will no longer need to attend this evening’s annual military parade at the Royal Plaza, organised by the armed forces at a time of political jitteries. Their Majesty the King and Queen will review the military parade and guards of honour.
The Chat Thai Party and the Matchima Party have also been dissolved.
As a result of the landmark Constitution Court rulings, the coalition government will have 289 MPs left in Parliament, compared with 165 MPs for the Democrat Party.
People Power will have 221 MPs from 232 MPs. These MPs will have to seek membership in new parties because People Power no longer exists. Take note that party list MPs banned from the ruling will be automatically replaced by candidates in the party list without new election.
Chat Thai now has 19 MPs, losing 15 MPs from the ruling.
Matchima will continue to have 11 MPs because none of them serves as party executives.
Nathawut Saikua, the government’s spokesman, said during the Constitution Court’s ruling, the prime minister was having a break on the Cabinet meeting in Chiang Mai. The coalition partners came over to give him encouragement after learning about the bad news.
The ASEAN Summit has to be postponed from the middle of this December to March 2009, the Cabinet agreed.
Nathawut said the coalition partners have vowed to continue to form a new government.
At 1:10 MP, Somchai was seen leaving the Provincial Hall of Chiang Mai, where he held his last Cabinet meeting in exile. Security forces prevented reporters from getting close to him.
Somchai kept his cool, wearing a smiling face. He said he has heard about the Constitution Court’s rulings. “I have finished my duty. There is no problem. The remaining people holding the offices will have to continue their job. So far I have not done anything to serve my interest,” he said.
Somchai immediately left for his home at Green Valley Estate, Mae Rim, Chiang Mai.
A total of 15 Cabinet members have lost their job along with the Constitution Court’s ruling.
The existing members of the Cabinet will continue to serve as caretaker Cabinet, awaiting the parliamentary voting of a new prime minister. Parliament must vote on a new prime minister within 30 days.
The coalition partners will enjoy a comfortable margin against the opposition Democrat, unless there is a switch of the coalition make-up, which is not likely at this point.
After the Constitution Court judges finished their reading, the Red Shirt pro-government supporters sealed all the entrances and exits of the Constitution Court premise at Chaeng Wattana. The Constitution Court judges had earlier sought security protection from the military by moving their deliberation of the party dissolution cases from their office to Chaeng Wattana, which is near the Army Command Centre.
Chalerm Yoobamrung, the health minister, is now one of the candidates to become the next prime minister. Congratulations!
The Red Shirt pro-government supporters were trying to go after the judges.
Tuesday’s ruling raises the possibility that hopes that thousands of anti-government protesters would end their siege of the country’s two main airports.
Constitutional Court President Chat Chalavorn said the court has decided to dissolve the party to set a political standard and an example because dishonest political parties undermine Thailand’s democratic system.
Will PM show up at military parade? Will he lose his job?
8:00 AM: All eyes will today focus on the annual military parade at the Royal Plaza and on the Constitution Court, which would be hearing closing statements of the three political parties accused of having committed electoral fraud.
Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and his Cabinet are scheduled to attend the military parade in Bangkok, presided over by Their Majesties the King and the Queen. But so far, Somchai, since his return from Peru last Wednesday, has opted to stay in Chiang Mai due to the political turbulence in Bangkok after the takeover of Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports by anti-government protesters.
Moreover, his shaky government is going through the country’s worst political crisis since 1979, leading to rampant speculation of another coup to end the deadlock.
Somchai flew back to Chiang Mai in the evening yesterday after attending a function in Nakhon Phanom in the Northeast. He plans to hold his Cabinet meeting in Chiang Mai today. Some Cabinet members, who cannot make it to Chiang Mai, will stay in Bangkok and participate in the meeting via teleconference.
A government spokesman said Somchai would attend the military parade in Bangkok, held by the Army, the Air Force and the Royal Thai Navy.
Yesterday, Somchai spoke through video conference to a Buddhist gathering in Phuttamonthon, which organised a prayer for His Majesty the King’s 81st Birthday.
The Constitution Court will hear the closing statements from the leaders of the People Power Party, the Chart Thai Party and the Matchima Party over charges of electoral fraud. If found guilty, these political parties could be disbanded and their executives banned from politics for five years.
But the Constitution Court has not scheduled a date for handing down the verdicts. One political source said the verdicts might be delivered tomorrow.
If the People Power Party were to be found guilty, Somchai would lose his premiership and his Cabinet would have to go with him. However, a deputy prime minister, who is not a party executive, might be appointed to succeed Somchai.
Supporters of the People Power Party wearing red shirts have vowed to apply pressure on the Constitution Court. This has prompted the Metropolitan Police Bureau to send some 500 police officers to provide security at the Court today. Another 500 police officers would stand by at their stations if more mobilisation is needed.
“I don’t believe there will be any big problem,” said Pol Lt-General Suporn Khongsua, the spokesman of the Metropolitan Police Bureau. “If the situation is serious, we can ask for reinforcements from the military.”
While the Chart Thai and Matchima Party leaders planned to present their closing statements before the Constitution Court, the People Power Party is not sending anyone.
Yuenyad Jaisamut, PPP legal representative in charge of the case, said the party had yesterday petitioned the court, opposing three of the nine Constitution Court judges as well as the court’s order not to have any further hearings. It also opposed the court’s rejection of a plea by People Power executives and members to defend themselves as individuals.
The judges the party opposes are Charan Pakdithanakul, Wasan Soipisut and Nurak Mapraneet.
“The case cannot be closed [today] as the court must clear our petition first. It must prove that its judges do not have any bias against the PPP and clarify how its order was not against the Constitution,” he said.
He said stopping the hearings was a violation of the defendants’ rights.
(Image from Thai Talk)
Constitution Court Disbands People Power, Matchima & Chart Thai
In a much-anticipated ruling, the Constitution Court has disbanded three ruling coalition political parties for election law violation and banned their executive board members from politics for five years.
In an hour-long verdict reading, the Constitution Court judges have confirmed that the People Power Party, the Matchima Thipataya Party, and the Chart Thai Party must be disbanded for electoral fraud.
The ruling was announced after Matchima Thipataya and Chart Thai have delivered their closing statements with Banharn Silapa-acha representing Chart Thai and Anongwan Thepsutin representing Matchima Thipataya.
The People Power Party did not send any representative to make its last statement before the court.
They also banned executive board members of all three parties from politics for five years.
The judges have delivered the verdict at the Administrative Court on Chaeng Wattana road under tight security after pro-government protesters have surrounded the Constitution Court building this morning.
The Democratic Alliance for Democracy also moved to try to block the Administrative Court but were not able to obstruct the reading of the verdict.
The verdict has led to widespread disappointment among the DAAD members while at the anti-government People’s Alliance for Democracy, protesters cheered and some even cried when the verdicts came out.
The verdict means Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat and several Cabinet members, who are executives of the three political parties, are immediately dismissed from their post. Remaining Cabinet members will act in a caretaker capacity and order a House of Representative meeting, which will select a new prime minister who will go ahead to form a new Cabinet.
However, the country is not expected to see a drastic change in politics as the ruling coalition parties have confirmed that they will stand firm with their alliance and will not switch allegiance to join with the opposition Democrat Party.