Yellow Shirt protester waving Thai flag. (Photo by author.)
On 21 March the Constitutional Court handed down a ruling invalidating the result of the 2 February election. The move will force new elections, which the Election Commission notes could take up to three months to arrange.
The ruling is contentious because many in Thailand believe the Constitutional Court to be politicised, given its prior influence on Thai politics. Among other cases, it annulled the 2006 election result, paving the way for an army coup.
The timing is particularly delicate because it comes just ahead of another key judicial decision. Caretaker prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra must appear before the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) by today, a long overdue appearance she has managed to continually postpone. The appearance will decide her fate over charges of dereliction of duty that could see her impeached.
Many in the local media expect the NACC case to be forwarded to the Senate for consideration. If the Senate takes on the case, Yingluck's duties will be suspended pending their decision and her role taken up by the deputy prime minister. If she's found guilty, she will be removed from office.
Meanwhile, tensions between government and anti-government supporters are rising.
On Thursday night, grenades were hurled at the NACC building where Yingluck supporters have been protesting. Large anti-government rallies, which began again this week after several weeks of quiet, are planned for this weekend.
According to reports, 200,000 armed Red Shirts are preparing to march on the capital if Yingluck is removed from office. This, coupled with a recent change in leadership to a more aggressive leader of the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship, a Red Shirt organisation, has many on the ground worried about an impending clash.
Clashes between Red Shirts and Yellow Shirt could see the army move in to quell any violence (they have said they would do as much if violence escalated).
The similarities to 2006 are eerie and don't bode well for Southeast Asia's second largest economy, still trying to convince investors that the turmoil will pass. A power vacuum pushed by what many are terming a judicial coup seems to be growing closer. Meanwhile, an army coup, if violence ensues, seems to be waiting in the wings.