BANGKOK, Apr 30 (Reuters) Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra is eligible to run again if the April 2 general election is annulled, his deputy said today.
The controversial Thaksin, who called the polls early in hopes of ending weeks of crippling opposition-backed street protests, had said he would not be a candidate for the post again.
But Deputy Prime Minister Chidchai Vanasatidya told reporters if the country's top courts nullified the April 2 result, as analysts say looks increasingly likely, then Thaksin would not have to keep his pledges.
''Now all the conditions have gone and the cards have been dealt, therefore, everybody has to follow the court's order,'' said Chidchai, who assumed day-to-day operations from Thaksin after he stood aside from the top job early this month.
''Everybody is eligible to whatever it says in the constitution.
You can't just exempt any particular individuals,'' he said.
A court ordered a halt to by-elections on Friday, a decision analysts say increases the likelihood of the inconclusive April 2 poll being voided.
Some said courts would have to rule the poll invalid before a May 2 deadline. Under the constitution, a full parliament must convene 30 days after an election.
Thaksin called the election little more than a year after winning a second landslide hoping it would end a campaign to oust him by foes accusing him of corruption and abuse of power -- charges he denied.
Instead, Thaksin's party won fewer votes than in the previous election in February last year and a substantial number of people abstained, effectively a vote against Thaksin.
That left parliament unable to fill all its seats and therefore constitutionally unable to pick a new leader.
The Administrative Court, which rules on the legality of government actions, ordered a halt to weekend by-elections in 16 constituencies, saying petitions it would hear soon might lead it to declare the April 2 election unlawful.
The ruling came hours after chief judges of the three main courts said they would rule swiftly on cases involving the elections and their rulings ''would go in the same direction''.
The Constitutional Court, which interprets the 1997 charter, is due to hear two similar cases tomorrow involving the April 2 poll.
Although the court did not say when it might issue a ruling, Jade Donavanik, dean of Siam University's Faculty of Law, said he expected it on Monday to meet the May 2 deadline after the king summoned top judges and told them to sort out the ''mess''.
Chidchai shrugged off threats by Thaksin foes who said they would resume street rallies if Thaksin came back to the helm.
Thaksin officially remains prime minister for the time being.
''Anything is possible,'' Chidchai replied to a reporter's question whether Thaksin would possibly return to the prime ministership.
''I would like to ask everyone to follow the rule of law, not to bring the country chaos,'' said the ex-police general.
REUTERS SI VC1248