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Thailand Supreme Court Refuses To Disband Political Party


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.

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.

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.