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Thailand’s Constitutional Court ruled this week that Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha can remain in office, after previously suspending him as it considered whether the former military leader had exceeded his term limit, the Guardian reported.

In August, opposition parties petitioned the high court, saying that Prayuth – who first came to power in a 2014 military coup – had violated term limits. Under Thailand’s 2017 military-backed constitution, the country’s prime minister is barred from serving more than eight years.

The court suspended Prayuth from office until it reviewed the case.

Prayuth’s supporters pointed out that the prime minister has not exhausted his term because the constitution took effect in 2017 and therefore cannot be applied retroactively. Some also proposed that his term should be counted as starting in 2019 when he was named prime minister after the elections.

The court found that Prayuth did not violate the constitution and that his term began in April 2017, when the constitution took effect.

The verdict sparked anger on social media and some pro-democracy groups threatened to protest against the court’s decision.

The case was the latest challenge against Prayuth, who has already survived a series of no-confidence motions, as well as mass anti-government protests calling for his resignation and reforms to the country’s powerful monarchy.

Observers said the court’s decision also has important ramifications for Prayuth in next year’s elections: The conservative prime minister plans to run in the May 2023 parliamentary elections – but if he wins, he could only remain in power for two-and-a-half years because of the term limits, according to the BBC.

Prayuth’s popularity has also declined because of growing dissatisfaction over the country’s sluggish economy. Analysts added that there were also concerns among conservatives that Prayuth would be unable to stop an election landslide by Pheu Thai, the opposition party established by loyalists to the exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

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