Ill-conceived gambit misfires badly

12-hour smiles: Thai Raksa Chart leader Preechaphol Pongpanich shows a document nominating Princess Ubolratana as the party's PM candidate at the Office of the Election Commission. By late evening, the smiles had evaporated. (Photo by Patipat Janthong)

The first question that sprang to my mind on Friday morning when I learned about the pro-Thaksin Thai Raksa Chart Party's nomination of Princess Ubolratana as its sole prime ministerial candidate to the Election Commission was: "What were they thinking?"

Another question emerged in quick succession: "Whose wicked mind was it that dared to cross the line and put the royal family in harm's way by using a member of the family for political benefits?"

Veera Prateepchaikul is a former editor, Bangkok Post.

The executive committee of Thai Raksa Chart that endorsed the princess's nomination? You must be kidding!

The party's core member and de facto leader Chaturon Chaisang, former core member of the Pheu Thai Party, has made known his opposition to an outsider being a prime ministerial candidate in reference to the Palang Pracharath Party's nomination of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha as its only candidate.

With his active leading role in the party, Mr Chaturon himself has not hidden his ambition to be one of the party's three prime ministerial candidates.

Then, all of a sudden, he changed tack and embraced the party's outsider candidate without any protest.

Who would have dreamed up such an outrageous and unthinkable scheme involving a member of the royal family in dirty politics and forced it upon Thai Raksa Chart?

Wooing the votes of royalist voters was probably the first objective of this outrageous political game plan. But it definitely is not the only objective of this wicked mind.

The immediate reactions from netizens on social media when Thai Raksa Chart's nomination of the princess was made public were quite a matter of serious concern.

The disappointment, the sense of despair and even anger from those in the royalist camp do not bode well for a country which is entering election mode and, more importantly, is preparing to hold an important event, the coronation ceremony of His Majesty the King, during May 4-6.

The suppressed political divide which characterised the political landscape several years before the coup that toppled the Yingluck government in May 2014 will rear its ugly head once again if Thai Raksa Chart's prime ministerial nomination is allowed to proceed unchecked.

The rumblings were just the beginning, before the next big thing comes along, unless of course, the vicious scheme is stopped. Thanks heaven, it did stop by virtue of a Royal Command issued on Friday night -- to the relief of a large number of people.

One may wonder where have the party's legal experts, including Ruangkrai Leekitwattana, gone. How could he have missed Rule 17 of the electoral law which forbids parties from involving members of the royal family in politics and the decades-old tradition that the royal family is above politics?

How could they be so blinded by political motive that they willingly and obediently agreed to pull off the dirty scheme that was conceived from a wicked mind and, by so doing, dumped their principle of no outsider candidate.

The Thai Raksa Chart on Saturday pledged to comply with the royal command and, at the same time, expressed its appreciation to the princess for consenting to allow the party to use her name as its prime ministerial candidate. But the party stopped short of expressing regret for its cardinal sin.

The party's office in Bangkok's Chaeng Watthana area, which is normally crowded with party members, was deserted on Saturday as if they knew in advance of the party's fate.

The Election Commission is expected to consider the party's case today regarding a prime ministerial nomination which will most certainly be disqualified.

But that will not be the end of the story as somebody will certainly lodge complaints to the EC to demand the dissolution of the party for involving the royal family in politics -- an offence that could lead to not only the party's dissolution but also the banishment from politics of the members of its executive committee.

It will be a miracle if the party escape any consequences.

Another casualty of the gross miscalculation by the party's big boss -- fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

As defiant as ever, he tweeted on Saturday to his demoralised supporters as follows: "Chin up and keep moving forward! We learn from past experiences but live for today and the future. Cheer up! Life must go on!"

But life may never be the same as the line of propriety has been crossed too far. The feelings of too many people have also been hurt. To borrow the famous quote from Newin Chidchob, his once trusted right-hand man who later deserted him. "It's over, boss!"

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