Thailand’s Constitutional Court Prolonged the Impasse

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Once again, the Constitutional Court abused its power and asserted its judicial power over the executive branch.

On Wednesday May 7th, the Constitutional Court ruled that Caretaker Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had unlawfully removed Mr. Thawil Pliensri from his General-Secretary post in the National Security Council. Consequently, it dismissed Yingluck and nine other Cabinet members related to the removal of Thawil.

This is the third time that the Constitutional Court had booted out a Prime Minister. The first to be ejected was Samak Soonthoravej, whom the court ruled his appearance in a TV cooking show unconstitutional. Second was Somchai Wongsawat, also ousted by the court.

Prior to the court ruling, media outlets and political analysts had laid out several possible scenarios that could take place after the court had made its decision. One of the scenarios was that the court would dismiss the entire cabinet, thereby creating a political vacuum. Had the court created a political vacuum by ejecting the entire cabinet, a civil war could have erupted. This surely is not in the interest of the court, and to an extend the anti-government side. A civil war would have torn the country apart, the judges are well aware of this fragility.

Somsak Jeamteerasakul, a prominent academia in history from Bangkok’s Thammasat University, said that this court’s ruling did not create a vacuum and provided some “breathing space” for Thai politics. While the decision did not create a political vacuum, it did not create a condition for a military coup (which is unlikely anyway) or a Suthep coup either.

To the disappointment of the PDRC, the cabinet was merely “amputated” and not entirely “executed”. This would mean that, in vain, their street protest would still go on, as the Constitutional Court did not completely wipe out the cabinet as hoped by the PDRC. They’re calling for another “major rally” which would, again, “be their last rally”. At best, the PDRC can only force government workers to relocate their working place by storming public offices, but not entirely interrupt their work. They’ll also cause traffic jam in certain areas.

The leaders of the anti-democracy camp realises that the PDRC is no longer an effective tool to bring about their goal. Their only hope lies on the Independent Organizations and the Senate. The politicised Constitutional Court, working in tandem with organisations like the National Anti Corruption Committee, could find legal ways to slowly amputate the embattled government. The Election Commissioner meanwhile, is delaying the the election.

Another push is from the Senate. It is looking at using Article 7 of the constitution to appoint a Prime Minister. But their effort will not be met unresisted by the UDD. Could this push for an “Article 7 Prime Minister” escalate the conflict closer to a decisive end?

A precondition for a manoeuvre that would decisively bring an end to this uncomfortable impasse was not created by the court. But the “day of reckoning” is only postponed. Eventually, a winner will emerge from this power struggle, but at the cost of the country’s economy.

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