In a historic first for Thailand, a senior member of the royal family is running in a general election — a move that some suspect could increase the monarchy's overall power in the country.
News emerged early on Friday that Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya, the elder sister of King Maha Vajiralongkorn and the oldest child of the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej, will be the prime ministerial candidate for the Thai Raksa Chart Party in the upcoming March 24 election. The party is closely linked to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who is widely believed to have played a role in Ubolratana's candidacy.
Her decision to run could change the entire outlook for the long-delayed election, which will be the country's first after nearly five years of military rule. Given how revered the monarchy is in Thai culture — nearly every establishment and household has portraits of the king — it will be hard for other candidates to run against the princess and equally tough for voters to consider other choices, analysts told CNBC.
Further complicating the picture is the fact that Thailand's current prime minister, Prayut Chan-o-cha, a now-retired army chief who took power in the military's 2014 coup, also threw his hat into the ring Friday under the pro-military faction Palang Pracharat. The development could potentially result in a showdown between the royal family and the military.