A top court in Thailand has ordered the termination of a major opposition party because of its nomination of the king's sister as a candidate for prime minister just over two weeks before the March 24 election.
The decision by the Constitutional Court reduced the Thai Raksa Chart Party's chances of defeating parties that are allied with the military junta that has been in power since it ousted a democratically elected government in a 2014 coup.
The ruling by the court, which also banned Thai Raksa Chart executive board members from political activity for 10 years, also raises concerns about the fairness of the upcoming elections.
The party nominated Princess Ubolratana as its candidate on February 8, prompting her brother, King Maha Vajiralongkorn, to declare it "inappropriate" and unconstitutional. The party argued it could legally nominate her because her formal royal titles were rescinded in 1972 when she married a foreigner.
The Constitutional Court ranks among the most conservative institutions in the South Asian country, regularly ruling against former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is aligned with the Thai Raksa Chart Party, and his allies.
The allied parties have been victors in every national election since 2001 but have twice been overthrown in coups.
Thai Raksa Chart is one of several parties loyal to former Prime Minister Thaksin in an election that generally pits his supporters against establishment parties.
Party leader Preechapol Pongpanich told reporters outside the Bangkok courthouse after the ruling, "we all had good intentions."
Thai Raksa Chart supporters were seen crying outside the courthouse, some of whom said they would vote for other opposition parties.