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Can a princess be a prime minister?

16 109 697
12.02.2019

"There are decades where nothing happens, and there are weeks where decades happen," Vladimir Ilych Lenin famously said. Sometimes decades get condensed into one single day, which changes dramatically the political dynamics of a country. February 8 was one of those days for Thailand.

It was supposed to be a regular Friday, no different from any other, except for the scheduled deadline for political parties to announce their premiership candidates ahead of the March 24 elections. That day, everyone expected that General Prayuth Chan-ocha, who took power in a coup in 2014, would announce his candidacy. His election seemed very much guaranteed, given the new constitution promulgated by his government in 2017, which gives the army complete control over the senate and almost a final say over the appointment of prime minister. Yet something much bigger was in the making.

In the early morning, the Thai Raksa Chart Party, a newly created political organisation linked to the overthrown Prime Ministers (and siblings) Yingluck and Thaksin Shinawatra, made an announcement that shook the whole country. It declared Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Varnavadi, King Maha Vajiralongkorn's elder sister, as its prime ministerial candidate. Ubolratana, a famous actress and trendsetter in Thailand, had officially relinquished her royal titles in 1972, when she married an American man and decided to live in the United States.

After divorcing him in 1998, Ubolratana moved back to Thailand in 2001 and has since won public acclaim through acting and charitable work, while being rumoured to be on friendly terms with Thaksin Shinawatra, who was deposed by a military coup in 2006 but has remained heavily involved in Thai politics.

The news seemed to crack Prayuth's plan to put a democratic stamp on his leadership and signal a tectonic shift in the country's political alliances. This was the first time in Thai history that a member of the royal........

© Al Jazeera