Thailand’s ex-PM Yingluck Shinawatra has been impeached and banned from politics for five years following legislators vote.
The move relates to Yingluck Shinawatra involvement in a controversial rice subsidy scheme.
Earlier on Friday, the attorney general also announced that Yingluck Shinawatra would face a criminal charge over her role in the scheme.
A court removed Yingluck Shinawatra as prime minister in May 2014, days before the military ousted her government in a coup.
On Janaury 23, 190 out of 219 lawmakers present in the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly (NLA) voted to impeach her. Eighteen voted against impeachment while the others abstained. One lawmaker was absent for the vote.
The votes were written on a whiteboard as they were tallied, and broadcast on national television.
Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, tycoon and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, remain hugely popular among Thailand’s rural poor, but are hated by an urban and middle-class elite who accuse them of corruption and abuse of power.
Their party is the most popular in Thailand and has – under various different names – won every election since 2001.
The allegations against Yingluck Shinawatra centre around a scheme in which her Pheu Thai-led government bought rice from Thai farmers at a much higher price than on the global market.
It resulted in the accumulation of huge stockpiles of rice and hit Thailand’s rice exports hard.
Anti-corruption investigators have accused Yingluck Shinawatra and her party of using the scheme to buy votes from farmers, particularly from their power base in the north, and allowing government associates to profit from it.
Yingluck Shinawatra has maintained that she was not involved in the scheme’s day-to-day operations, and has defended it as an attempt to support the rural poor. She has also said that she could not be impeached as she has not held a position in the government for months.
Her supporters say the claims against her are a ruse to remove her from politics.
Yingluck Shinawatra also faces up to ten years in prison if she is found guilty of negligence of duty, which the attorney general charged her with on Friday morning.
Surasak Threerattrakul, director-general of the Office of the Attorney General, said after considering all the witnesses and evidence from the National Anti-Corruption Committee “we agree that the case substantiates a criminal indictment charge against Yingluck”.
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An impeachment hearing against former PM Yingluck Shinawatra has begun in Thailand’s parliament on January 9.
Yingluck Shinawatra could be banned from politics for five years after her impeachement.
The former prime minister, Thailand’s first woman in this position, was removed from office for abuse of power in May 2014 and days later her government was ousted in a military coup that ended months of street protests against her by her rivals.
Yingluck Shinawatra remains popular among the rural poor who elected her in a 2011 landslide, as does her brother, ousted premier Thaksin Shinawatra, and the impeachment hearing could test a fragile calm under military rule.
In her opening statement to the military-appointed National Legislative Assembly, Yingluck Shinawatra said the proceedings were futile as she no longer held any political post.
“I was removed from my position as prime minister. I have no position left to be removed from,” Yingluck Shinawatra told the assembly.
About 20 of Yingluck Shinawatra’s supporters gathered outside parliament despite government warnings to stay away. Some held red roses and tried to raise pictures of the former prime minister until police told them to put them away.
Thailand is under martial law and public gatherings are banned.
The case concerns Yingluck Shinawatra’s role in a rice subsidy program which critics denounced as a wasteful handout to her supporters and which incurred billions of dollars in losses.
A day after she was ordered to step down in May, the National Anti-Corruption Commission indicted her for dereliction of duty in relation to the rice scheme.
The impeachment is the latest chapter in a divisive 10-year struggle for power between the Shinawatras and the royalist-military establishment which Thaksin Shinawatra, a populist former telecommunications tycoon, as a threat.
A guilty verdict would see Yingluck Shinawatra banned from politics.
Her supporters say the case is aimed at barring her from an election the military has promised to hold early next year and ending the influence of the Shinawatra family.
Thaksin Shinawatra was ousted in a 2006 coup and lives in self-exile to avoid a 2008 graft conviction but remains hugely influential.
The National Legislative Assembly has said a decision could come by the end of the month.
Under the subsidy scheme, Yingluck Shinawatra’s government bought rice from farmers at prices much higher than on the open market leading to huge stockpiles.
Yingluck Shinawatra defended the scheme in her opening statement.
“Please look at the benefits of the scheme and not just the financial cost,” she said.
Yingluck Shinawatra’s hearing resumes on Friday, January 16.
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Polling stations have opened in Romania in the country’s parliamentary elections.
Opinion polls suggest a large win for the governing coalition led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta and Senate President Crin Antonescu.
But the result could trigger renewed political instability as Romania negotiates a vital loan agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Victor Ponta and so called centre-right President Traian Basescu have been bitter enemies since Ponta’s government tried to impeach the president last July.
Analysts say that, in the event of Victor Ponta’s Social Liberal Union (USL) winning, the president may ask someone other than Ponta to form a government.
President Traian Basescu has said clearly he will use his powers to appoint a prime minister “in the national interest”.
Given the enmity the president feels towards Victor Ponta and his coalition, it is hard to imagine he has the leader of the Social Liberal Union (USL) in mind.
However, any attempt to appoint someone else may result in a constitutional crisis.
If the USL wins a clear majority, analysts say the president may ask someone other than Victor Ponta from within USL to become prime minister, using the argument that the USL is not a party but a coalition.
Opinion polls in Romania suggest a large win for the governing coalition led by Prime Minister Victor Ponta
If the USL falls short of a majority, Traian Basescu could ask one of his allies in the Right Romania Alliance (ARD) to try to form a coalition.
Opinion polls have put the ARD in second place, but far away vs. USL.
Any prolonged political instability could unnerve markets and threaten a crucial IMF loan agreement.
Romania’s current loan agreement expires in early 2013.
President Traian Basescu barely survived July’s referendum on his impeachment after turnout fell below the 50% needed to validate the vote, even if 7.4 million people were against him.
He said Romanians had “rejected a coup” by staying away from polling stations.
The row between the two men has alarmed Romania’s EU partners and parlayzed political decision-making.
Romania and neighboring Bulgaria joined the EU in 2007, but Brussels has put both countries under special monitoring because of concerns about judicial independence, corruption and political influence in state institutions.
Governments in Latin America have reacted angrily to the impeachment of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo in the wake of a land dispute scandal.
Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay have condemned the move and recalled their ambassadors for consultations.
But Federico Franco, who replaced Fernando Lugo as president, denied that Lugo’s removal from office was a coup.
In his first news conference, Federico Franco said there had been no break with democracy.
A 39-4 vote in the Senate on Friday saw Fernando Lugo impeached, in a case stemming from his handling of clashes between farmers and police last week in which at least 17 people died.
Earlier, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez had said her country “would not validate the coup” in Paraguay.
Governments in Latin America have reacted angrily to the impeachment of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo in the wake of a land dispute scandal
President Cristina Fernandez also said that the South American trade bloc, Mercosur, would take “appropriate measures” at next week’s summit in Argentina.
Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota condemned the impeachment as a “backward step” liable to be sanctioned by regional institutions such as Mercosur, Reuters news agency reports.
Federico Franco, who had been serving as Fernando Lugo’s vice-president, was sworn in as president immediately after the impeachment.
He insisted the proceedings had been conducted in line with Paraguay constitution.
“What was carried out was a political trial in accordance with the constitution and the laws,” he said.
Federico Franco acknowledged the impeachment had caused tensions with Paraguay neighbors.
“I am calm, we are going to organize the house, we are going to contact our neighboring countries in due time and I’m absolutely certain that they are going to understand the situation in Paraguay,” Federico Franco said.
The presidents of Ecuador and Venezuela, Rafael Correa and Hugo Chavez, were also outspoken in their criticism of the move.
“The Ecuadorian government will not recognize any president that isn’t Fernando Lugo,” Rafael Correa said.
“We will not lend ourselves to these tales of alleged legal formalities, which clearly attack democracy,” he added.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez displayed a similar sentiment: “In the name of the people of Venezuela and in the name of the Venezuelan government and as commander-in-chief, I’ll say it.
“We, the Venezuelan government, the Venezuelan state, do not recognize this illegitimate and illegal government that has been installed.”
The governments of Colombia, Mexico and Chile have said they regretted the fact that Fernando Lugo had not been “given reasonable time to prepare his defense”.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said Fernando Lugo’s removal from office was an “attack on the legal foundation of the state”.
The United States and Spain have avoided publicly opposing or supporting the move, instead pressing the principle of democracy in Paraguay.
A statement from the Spanish foreign ministry said: “Spain defends full respect for democratic institutions and the state of law and trusts that Paraguay, in respect for its constitution and international commitments, will manage to handle this political crisis and safeguard the peaceful coexistence of the Paraguayan people.”
The United States took a similar stance.
US State Department spokeswoman Darla Jordan was quoted as saying: “We urge all Paraguayans to act peacefully, with calm and responsibility, in the spirit of Paraguay democratic principles.”