Thailand's King Maha Vajiralongkorn on Friday called his elder sister's bid to run for prime minister in March "inappropriate" and unconstitutional, likely sinking her candidacy for a populist opposition party.
Thailand's royalty made an unprecedented move into politics on Friday when the sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn was declared a prime ministerial candidate in a March 24 general election.
Her candidacy instantly threatened to upend the first national ballot since a military coup in 2014 that ousted a government loyal to Thaksin, the figure at the centre of years of political turbulence and rival street protests that have riven Thai society.
While the king sits above politics, his comments are likely to weigh heavily on the minds of the country's election commission which must rule on whether Ubolratana can enter politics.
Thailand has not had a royal as premier since becoming a constitutional monarchy in 1932. The fact is, Princess Ubolratana is respected and treated as part of the royal institution, and use of the royal institution by any political parties is prohibited.
Because Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, the king and his immediate circle are not supposed to involve themselves directly in politics.
The Thai Raksa Chart party, which nominated Ubolratana as its candidate for prime minister, said it "graciously accepts" the king's statement and would abide by election regulations and royal tradition.
"I feel great. And I think she's a suitable choice", Thai homemaker Nirinsiri Chanboriboon, 41, told AFP after the announcement of her candidacy earlier Friday.
However, the nomination of a member of the royal family by the pro-Thaksin Thai Raksa Chart party could change that dynamic.
The latest developments stand to benefit current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, a former army chief who staged a 2014 coup against Thaksin's sister Yingluck Shinawatra and now wants to stay in the same position after the election.
"Who would dare criticise a royal prime minister?" said Puangthong Pawakapan, professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University.
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The princess is the first-born child of the late King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit. It will be hard to block her political rise because she will be seen as a representative of the monarchy - the nation's most revered and respected institution.
The new Constitution written after Prayut seized power included a 250-member Senate appointed by the military that would also be able to vote for the prime minister. She married a fellow student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and lived in the United States, where she and her husband had three children.
The Thai Raksa Chart party dropped the political bombshell this morning. While Thais typically refer to her as a princess, Ubolratana in her Instagram post said she would be taking part in the election as a commoner.
Following her divorce, she returned to Thailand and has once again begun to participate in royal life - although she never took up her full royal title.
The simmering conflict between the Bangkok-centered elites and the more rural-based populists has resulted in street protests, military coups, and violent clashes for nearly 15 years.
Thai Raksa Chart is aligned with Yingluck and her brother Thaksin, who was ousted by the army in 2006.
"Friday's events were astounding and have people completely rethinking their assessments and perspectives and the country's future political trajectory", said Jay Harriman, senior director at BowerGroupAsia, a government affairs consultancy.
Princess Ubolratana Mahidol's nomination by the opposition Thai Raksa Chart Party marks a shock realignment of Thai politics.
Her involvement gave a royal sheen to the political machine of Thaksin Shinawatra, the self-exiled billionaire whose parties have won every election since 2001.
Her 21-year-old son was killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 while vacationing on a Thai island. The registration papers that shook up Thailand's upcoming election list her legal residence as "Boromphiman Throne Hall" and "inside the Grand Palace", according to the Associated Press.