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Thailand court disbands ruling party, bans PM

[JURIST] The Constitutional Court of Thailand [official website, in Thai] on Tuesday ordered the dissolution [Bangkok Post report] of the ruling People's Power Party (PPP) [party website, in Thai], and banned prime minister Somchai Wongsawat [Nation profile] from politics for five years as the result of an election fraud investigation. Former PPP deputy leader Yongyuth Tiyapairat was convicted of organizing a vote-buying scheme [Bangkok Post report] by the court in July, and Thai law allows the court to disband all political parties and bar party officials associated with such fraud, even those not directly involved. The court also disbanded PPP coalition partners Chart Thai [party website, in Thai] and Matchimathipataya and banned more than 100 other officials from participating in politics for five years. Following the ruling, Somchai said that he and the coalition parties would obey [Straits Times report] the court's order. Thai deputy prime minister Chavarat Charnveerakul has been appointed [Bangkok Post report] as interim prime minister until the country's parliament [official website, in Thai] can appoint Somchai's sucessor. Also Tuesday, leaders of opposition People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD) [advocacy website] said it would end protests [Straits Times report] that had taken over [JURIST report] Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi and Don Muang airports in light of the ruling.

The case against the PPP and Somchai was brought before the court [JURIST report] by the country's Office of the Attorney General (OAG) in October following a September recommendation [Bangkok Post report] by the country's Election Commission [official website, in Thai] to break up the party because of the alleged fraud. Thailand's Election Commission had already said it would begin an investigation [JURIST report] into allegations that Somchai illegally holds stocks in companies which operate under government contracts. In September, then-prime minister and PPP founder Samak Sundaravej [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] instituted a controversial state of emergency [JURIST report] to quell demonstrations, but was later removed from office [JURIST report] after receiving illegal compensation for an appearance on a television cooking show. The PPP has also been closely associated with ousted Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], who has faced numerous charges of corruption.

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