A leading opposition party petitioned the Constitutional Court this afternoon to intervene and enforce the statutory eight-year term limit for Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha.
A week before the eighth anniversary of then-junta boss Prayuth installing himself as nominal prime minister, Cholnan Srikaew of the Pheu Thai Party and other lawmakers submitted a letter asking the court to suspend his rule while ruling on whether he can serve past Aug. 24.
“The petition asks the court to order the prime minister to stop performing duties until a decision is made to prevent damage to the exercise of powers and duties,” Cholnan said.
The 2017 constitution limits a prime minister to a cumulative total of eight years in office. Under that seemingly unbendable rule, Prayuth’s time is up seven days from today.
The letter will be sent to Speaker of Parliament Chuan Leekpai, who will review its signatures before forwarding it to the court, a process that Cholnan said won’t take more than two days.
In the event Prayuth is removed from office, Gen. Prawit Wongsuwan would become acting prime minister until a new PM was appointed.
Appealing to the Constitutional Court for remedy comes after the nation’s highest court said it had no problem with Prayuth’s continued reign. On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that Prayuth’s term that began in 2014 did not actually apply because the latest constitution didn’t come into effect until mid-2017. Under that court’s reasoning, Prayuth can remain in office until 2025.
Established under the constitution of 1997 – considered Thailand’s most democratic – the Constitutional Court was given life-or-death power over politicians in a bid to rein in corruption. It has in fact been used in the ensuing years as a weapon to eliminate threats to the status quo by banning parties and their lawmakers on seeming technicalities, such as when the Future Forward Party was dissolved and its popular leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit banned two years ago.
Fresh on the heels of Prayuth surviving yet another no-confidence vote, confusion and anger spread through the opposition last week after Prawit, who heads the ruling Palang Pracharath Party, said he would nominate 68-year-old Prayuth for another term.
Prayuth served as army commander-in-chief under the civilian government of Yingluck Shinawatra until he deposed the remnants of her administration in a coup d’etat in May 2014 following large-scale street protests.