Thailand's Next Premier May Be Semi-Divine
Next month’s Thai election just had a game-changing development: For the first time, a senior member of the country’s royal family is a candidate.
Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, 67, is the sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn. She's running for prime minister via a party linked to former premier Thaksin Shinawatra. That's a monumental shift in a country where senior royals are treated as semi-divine and apolitical.
It’s a little complex, so bear with us: Parties aligned with Thaksin have won every election since 2001, only to be unseated by the courts or the military in a more than decade-long tussle for power with Thailand’s established elite. Thaksin is in exile and his sister, who was removed as prime minister in a coup in 2014, later fled overseas as well.
Securing Princess Ubolratana as a candidate potentially brings Thaksin back in from the cold, and is a blow to junta leader (and former army chief) Prayuth Chan-Ocha’s bid to stay in power via the election.
With a slew of movie and television appearances and an Instagram page with about 100,000 followers, Ubolratana has a much larger social media presence than her royal siblings.
“It’ll be difficult for parties to run against the princess,” says Paul Chambers, a lecturer at Naresuan University’s College of ASEAN Community Studies. “Thai ideology puts the royals at the top.”
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What to Watch
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- Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker has agreed to appear before the House Judiciary Committee today, defusing at least for now a charged partisan debate over threats to subpoena him to answer questions about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia meddling probe and his conversations with Trump.
- European Council President Donald Tusk may start a new political party in Poland before elections later this year, Rzeczpospolita newspaper reports. A former prime minister, Tusk is seen as a potential challenger to the nationalist Law & Justice party, which has clashed with the EU over the rule of law.
And finally... He came to Congress in 1955 and stayed for 59 years – securing the record as the longest-serving federal lawmaker in U.S. history. Former Democratic Michigan Representative John Dingell, who used his clout to champion U.S. carmakers, passed away yesterday at the age of 92.
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