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Published: 11:02, September 30, 2022 | Updated: 17:33, September 30, 2022
Thai court rules PM Prayuth has not exceeded term limit
By Reuters
Published:11:02, September 30, 2022 Updated:17:33, September 30, 2022 By Reuters

Thailand's Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha gestures after presiding over Thailand Corporate Excellence Award for Financial Management at the Government House in Bangkok, Thailand, Sept 9, 2015. (CHAIWAT SUBPRASOM / REUTERS)

BANGKOK - Thailand's Constitutional Court on Friday ruled Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha had not exceeded the maximum eight years allowed in office, paving the way for his return from a five-week suspension.

The court announced its decision in a case filed by the opposition Pheu Thai party, which had sought clarity on whether Prayuth's time as leader of a junta formed after a coup he led eight years ago should count in his overall tally.

READ MORE: Thai court to decide on PM Prayuth's tenure this month

The court, in a 25-minute reading of the verdict, said Prayuth's tenure as prime minister should be counted from 2017, when a new constitution was promulgated.

The decision will be a boost for Prayuth, a staunch royalist whose premiership has been beset by attempts to unseat him, including four house censure motions, a conflict of interest case and major protests challenging his leadership and the monarchy

The decision will be a boost for Prayuth, a staunch royalist whose premiership has been beset by attempts to unseat him, including four house censure motions, a conflict of interest case and major protests challenging his leadership and the monarchy.

Prayuth, 68, had been suspended from office while the court deliberated the case.

ALSO READ: Suspended Thai PM Prayuth says to continue as defense minister

The Pheu Thai party and a government spokesperson did not immediately respond to separate requests for comment on Friday's ruling.

An opinion poll in early August showed Prayuth's popularity waning, with nearly two-thirds of people surveyed wanting him to leave office, while a third preferred to wait for the court ruling.

The retired general was junta leader and prime minister from 2014 until an election in 2019, after which a new parliament chose him to stay on as premier.

The Pheu Thai party, which led the government ousted by Prayuth in 2014, believes he reached the eight-year milestone last month and petitioned the court to set the record straight.

READ MORE: Thai PM survives 4th no-confidence vote in parliament

Prayuth's supporters, however, had argued his premiership started when a new constitution was promulgated in 2017, while others say it began after the 2019 election.

The court's decision means Prayuth could remain premier until 2025, if re-elected. An election must be held by May 7 next year at the latest, according to the election commission.

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