Thailand’s Constitutional Court has thrown out a legal challenge to Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha’s term limits, ruling he can stay in office.
It had suspended him while it heard the case but it had been widely expected to reject the opposition parties’ petition.
The opposition argued General Prayuth had exceeded his constitutionally-limited eight years in office.
The former military chief seized power in a 2014 coup.
He made himself PM in August that year, meaning he has been the PM now for longer than that.
The Constitutional Court has a long history of ruling in favour of conservative, royalist groups and against those associated with reform; in the past 16 years it has sacked three prime ministers and dissolved three political parties, all from one side of Thailand’s divided politics.
Few believed its judges, some appointed under Gen Prayuth, would be prepared to go as far as sacking him too.
The opposition case appeared to be strong. The new constitution, drafted in 2017 under Gen Prayuth’s then-military government, stated that “The Prime Minister shall not hold office for a total period of more than eight years”.
However the Constitutional Court argues that this only came into effect with the new constitution in April 2017, and that it is from this date that Gen Prayuth’s years in office should be counted.