Thailand's Constitutional Tribunal gave converse rulings on electoral fraud charges against the country's two biggest parties on Wednesday, which ending the year-long suit while unveiling a possible new round of chaos to the kingdom.
In a final verdict labeled as "historic" by local media, the former ruling Thai Rak Thai party (TRT), founded by Thailand's ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra and boasting a unprecedented 14 million members, was found guilty of breaking election laws and ordered to be disbanded.
In contrast, the TRT's major rival and veteran opposition party the Democrat, has been relieved from the long-term pressure as the Tribunal exonerated it from all electoral fraud charges and warranted it to remain in Thai politics.
The combined verdict, involving the TRT, the Democrat and a few other smaller parties, took the Constitutional Tribunal, comprising nine senior judges from the Supreme Court and the Supreme Administrative Court, nearly 12 hours to read.
The lengthy process began at around 1:30 p.m. (0630 GMT) and ended before midnight.
No disturbance or clash erupted during Wednesday, as worried by the Council for National Security, which had previously dispatched over 130,000 security personnel to stand by in greater Bangkok to control the situation, and set up more check points to obstruct demonstrators of far regions from flocking into the capital to hold rallies.
The Tribunal's verdict said that the TRT, has committed misconducts which broke election laws and undermined national stability and democratic standards, warranting its dissolution.
The Tribunal also revoked the voting rights of the party's some 110 executives for five years. The revocation involve former party executives, including Thaksin Shinwatra, who is on exile after ousted by the Sept. 19 coup last year.
TRT acting leader Chaturon Chaisaeng called on party members and supporters to keep calm and united in face of the verdict, which he called "unfair and unacceptable."
He told supporters at the TRT head office, who had been waiting all day for the verdict, but only to be disappointed, that the TRT would make a public announcement in response to the disbanding order on Thursday.
The TRT's argument questioned the legitimacy of the Constitutional Tribunal, installed by the Council for National Security (CNS) after it staged the military coup on Sept. 19 last year.
It also considered the No. 27 Announcement issued by the CNS after the coup, which bans executives of dissolved parties from politics for five years, as void.
However, both allegations were refuted by the Tribunal.
The Tribunal found that two senior members of the TRT party -- former TRT deputy leader Thamarak Isarangura and ex-deputy secretary general Pongsak Ruktapongpisal, were guilty of charges that they were involved in paying and hiring smaller parties to run in the April 2 election.
The act allegedly aimed at avoiding the requirement that any candidate uncontested in a constituency must receive a 20-percent minimum eligible votes to win the seat, as TRT's candidates were the only ones in many constituencies.
The verdict read that the two senior TRT members have acted on behalf of the TRT party, thus the party executives should be held responsible for the alleged misconducts of the two members.
The TRT was also found guilty of collaborating with the Pattana Chart party, candidate registrar and an Election Commission official to illegally amend profiles of the Pattana Chart party candidates to meet the minimum 90-day party membership required for qualified candidates to run in the election.
The ill fate of TRT was announced a few hours after the Tribunal exonerated TRT's major rival, the Democrat Party, from all electoral fraud charges in an earlier read verdict and exempted it from dissolution.
The Tribunal decided the Democrat could remain in politics as well as its executives.
The Democrat Party had been accused of making false accusations against the TRT and its then leader Thaksin Shinawatra, and hiring smaller parties to run in the April 2 election to frame TRT.
The smaller parties involved in the cases, including the Pattana Chart Thai (Thai Development), the Thai Ground, Progressive Democracy and Better Life parties, were all found guilty of breaking election laws and ordered to be disbanded. Their executives are banned from politics for five years.
The cases against both the TRT and Democrat, were brought by the Office of the Attorney-General (OAG) before the Constitutional Court last June.
After the Constitutional Court was abrogated by the military after the Sept. 19 coup, a newly-installed Constitution Tribunal took over the cases.
Analysts here waited no time to predict that the Tribunal's verdict would change Thailand's political landscape and pave way for the 43-year-old Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva to become Thailand's youngest post-war premier.
The predict was based on the fact that after the TRT was disbanded, there would be only a few major political parties left - - the Democrat, Chat Thai and Mahachon to run in the next general election, which is seen as a symbol of the "return to democracy" after the military coup ousted the Thaksin government, and is tentatively set in December.
The Democrat, the oldest existing political party in Thailand, is seen as the strongest contestant among these parties.
After his party was acquitted by the Tribunal, Abhisit described the verdict as a "victory for Thailand and all the Thai people."
He thanked the Tribunal for the "fair" judgment and looked ahead to the new election, pledging to "guide the country back to the democratic path."
Thaksin, ousted from office in the Sept. 19 coup, reportedly followed the rulings of the Constitution Tribunal from London. His wife and children had left Thailand on Friday to join him in London, Thai media reported.
Thaksin, responding to the ruling against the party, has reportedly told the BBC that he would like the party members and supporters to respect the verdict, instead of resisting it.