Thai's Constitutional Court on Wednesday decided to suspend Prime Minister Prayut Chan-O-Cha, while it determines whether he can stay beyond the eight-year limit on power set by the Constitution , a political earthquake a few months before the general elections.
The court may take several weeks to resolve this legal knot which has put tension in the capital Bangkok, where demonstrations have took place on Tuesday. General elections are expected next March.
Opposition MPs, teachers, student unions… Many voices have been raised to demand the departure of Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who they believe has reached the eight-year limit in office set in the 2017 Constitution.
However, two different interpretations could allow the former general (68), approved by the king on August 24, 2014 following a coup, to stay until 2025 or 2027.
“Let the Constitutional Court decide”, limited himself to saying the person concerned who has dodged questions on this burning subject in recent days.
The Constitutional Court officially started its examination on Wednesday. She voted five judges to four to suspend the prime minister, as demanded by opposition MPs behind the seizure.
Deputy Prime Minister and number two in the Prawit government Wongsuwan, 77, is to serve as interim prime minister.
“In the event of suspension, Prawit Wongsuwan will be interim prime minister, and Prayut Chan-O-Chan will continue as defense minister, a position he currently holds,” Wissanu Krea-ngam, also vice-president, told reporters on Tuesday. – prime minister – there are six.
A political crisis a few months before the elections
If the announcement of this suspension is a surprise, experts interviewed by AFP expect the Court to decide in the direction of Prayut Chan-O-Cha who has resisted all crises since 2014, in particular during the massive pro-democracy demonstrations of 2020.
“The long list of one-sided decisions that benefited Prayut Chan-O-Cha speaks for itself (…) The most likely scenario is that he limps along until the end of his mandate, beyond the limit of eight years”, explained Thitinan Pongsudhirak, professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
In question, the 2017 Constitution, drafted under the military junta and considered favorable to the interests of the army.
A pro-Prayut reading of this text takes as its starting point the calculation of the eight years 2017, i.e. the entry into force of the Constitution. Another even takes as its starting point 2019, the year of the legislative elections which legitimized his power.
Since Tuesday, containers deposited by the authorities have blocked the road leading to the government house in Bangkok, where more than a hundred people called for the departure of the Prime Minister.
The suspension could reshuffle the cards in view of the general elections scheduled for early 2023.
Former general like Prayut Chan- O-Cha, to whom he is very close, Prawit Wongsuwan is also the leader of the Palang Pracharat, the main ruling party.
He was overtaken in 2018 by a scandal which revealed more than a million euros of undeclared luxury watches in its assets. He was later cleared of corruption suspicions.
One of his main files will be preparations for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok on November 18-19.< /p>