The throngs of protesters didn’t drive Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra from office, but the judges did. The country’s constitutional court ruled today that she abused her power in a personnel shuffle, and removed her from office. The result is sure to sow more confusion in Thailand, a major U.S. ally that has one of the region’s most developed economies—but it’s one that has been suffering due to a political system that seems to alternate between gridlock, violent chaos, and the absurd.
Yingluck’s ouster was widely expected, as the constitutional court is perceived to favor the opposite faction in Thailand’s long-running political struggle. The country is broadly—and, some fear, irrevocably—divided between Bangkok’s wealthy elite and the mostly poor, rural voters who support exiled billionaire and former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, Yingluck’s brother.
The constitutional court, made up of nine judges drawn from several other courts, had previously invalidated elections won by pro-Thaksin parties, dissolved political parties aligned with him, and removed two separate pro-Thaksin prime ministers—one of them for appearing on a TV cooking show.
The charges that brought down Shinawatra seem equally petty: The court found that she violated the constitution by removing a national-security advisor in 2011. According to her opponents, this reshuffle was designed to open up a separate job for her former brother-in-law. The court also ruled that all cabinet members who were serving in 2011 must leave their posts for countenancing the move. (And it cited the cooking show case as a precedent.)