Thailand’s Constitutional Court will consider annulling the country’s Feb. 2 incomplete election and ruled that Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra’s 2 trillion-baht ($61.6 billion) infrastructure bill was illegal, giving ammunition to protesters trying to topple her government.
The opposition Democratic Party, which backs the protest movement seeking to oust Yingluck, said yesterday it would use the decision to seek her removal. The Democrats brought the suit on the spending bill, saying the law, which was passed by parliament, breached the constitution because it permits off-budget spending.
“We plan to seek the National Anti-Corruption Commission to impeach Yingluck, her Cabinet and other MPs who voted to approve” the infrastructure bill, said Wirat Kalayasiri, head of the legal team for the Democrat Party. “This will involve about 400 people.”
With the street protests that had disrupted Bangkok for months largely over and the military refusing to choose a side in the standoff, Yingluck’s opponents are stepping up efforts to use the courts to dislodge the premier. They are looking for a repeat of 2008, when the previous prime minister from Yingluck’s Pheu Thai party was removed by a court ruling its members call a judicial coup.
“There is a lot of criticism about this bill,” Poramet Tongbua, an investment strategist at Bualuang Securities Pcl in Bangkok, said by phone. “Without government infrastructure investments, this will add more downside risk to the Thai economy as political conflict has substantially hurt domestic consumption and private investments.”
The court ruled that the the infrastructure law breached the constitution in its content and in the way it was drafted, Chaovana Traimas, secretary general of Constitutional Court, told reporters yesterday in Bangkok.
“I feel disappointed, as the government has been trying to develop our infrastructure to meet with our commitment to the parliament,” Yingluck said. “The nation’s infrastructure has been less developed compared with the neighboring countries. The country needs investments in infrastructure to become the center of Southeast Asia.”
The National Anti-Corruption Commission is investigating at least 15 cases against Yingluck or her party members, ranging from allegations of corruption in water projects to harming national security by allowing television stations to air a speech by Yingluck’s brother, Thaksin Shinawatra. Thaksin was ousted in a 2006 coup and is living abroad to avoid a jail term.
Thaksin and his allies have a history of tensions with the country’s legal institutions. A military-appointed court in 2007 disbanded Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai party for breaking election laws, banning him and more than 100 party executives from politics for five years.
The opposition is seeking to replace Yingluck’s government with an unelected council of “good people” that would work to dismantle the influence on Yingluck and Thaksin on the Thai political system. The Democrat Party refused to participate in the Feb. 2 national election that Yingluck called to try to diffuse the crisis. There have been no results released from that vote, and the government and the Election Commission are still at odds over the best way to complete the voting, which was disrupted by protests in many areas.
“If the Constitution Court then decides to annul the February 2 election and call another, this election date could be set for several months down the line--enough time for an anti-Thaksin Shinawatra caretaker government to modify the constitution and for the Democrats to prepare to contest the new elections since they boycotted the last one,” said Paul Chambers, director of research at the Institute of Southeast Asian Affairs at Chiang Mai University.
The Democrats have lost the last five elections to allies of Thaksin.