The body can take several weeks to settle this legal knot which has put tension in the capital Bangkok, where demonstrations took place on Tuesday.
Opposition deputies, teachers, student unions... Many voices were raised to demand the departure of Prayut Chan-O-Cha, who, according to them, has reached the limit of eight years in office set in the Constitution of 2017.
But for his supporters, two interpretations could allow the 68-year-old former general, approved as Prime Minister by the king on August 24, 2014 following a coup, to stay until 2025 or 2027, in case of re-election in 2023.
"Let the Constitutional Court decide," said the person concerned last week, who has dodged questions on this hot topic in recent days.
The Constitutional Court officially started its examination on Wednesday. She voted five judges against four to immediately suspend the Prime Minister, as demanded by the opposition deputies, at the origin of the seizure.
Anucha Burachaisri, a spokesman for the prime minister's office, called on "all groups" to "respect the court's decisions and avoid criticizing it."
Deputy Prime Minister and number two in the government Prawit Wongsuwan, 77, will take over as interim Prime Minister.
"General Prawit Wongsuwan is going to be acting prime minister because he is the first on the succession list of deputy prime ministers," Wissanu Krea-ngam, also deputy prime minister, told reporters. six.
"The current government will continue its work normally, because General Prayut was not expelled from his post, but only suspended", continued the leader, recalling that Prayut Chan-O-Cha will continue to sit in the government in as Minister of Defence, a position he held in addition to that of Prime Minister.
If the announcement of this suspension is a surprise, the experts questioned by AFP expect to see the Court decide in the direction of Prayut Chan-O-Cha who has resisted all the crises since 2014, in particular during the demonstrations. massive pro-democracy campaigns of 2020.
"The long list of one-sided decisions that benefited Prayut Chan-O-Cha speaks for itself (...) The most likely scenario is that he limps along until the end term, beyond the eight-year limit," said Thitinan Pongsudhirak, professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.
In question, the 2017 Constitution, drafted under the military junta and deemed favorable to the interests of the army.
"The legitimacy of the Constitutional Court has been debated since its creation (in 1997, editor's note). It was already politicized when Thaksin Shinawatra was Prime Minister (2001-2006, editor's note). It is expected that it will decide in favor of Prayut Chan-O-Cha," said Napisa Waitoolkiat, a political analyst at Naresuan University.
- Elections in sight -
A pro-Prayut reading of this text takes as its starting point the calculation of the eight years 2017, i.e. the entry into force of the Constitution. Another even takes as its starting point 2019, the year of the legislative elections which legitimized his power.
Since Tuesday, containers left by the authorities have blocked the road leading to the government house in Bangkok, where more than a hundred people have demanded the departure of the Prime Minister.
The suspension could reshuffle the cards ahead of the 2023 general election.
A former general like Prayut Chan-O-Cha, to whom he is very close, Prawit Wongsuwan is also the leader of the Palang Pracharat, the main ruling party.
"It's like sailing a boat in a bathtub, passing from General Prayut to General Prawit", reacted Pita Limjaroenrat, leader of Move Forward, one of the opposition parties, which calls for fresh blood.
Prawit Wongsuwan was overtaken in 2018 by a scandal that revealed more than a million euros of undeclared luxury watches in his assets. He was later cleared of corruption suspicions.
One of his main files will be preparations for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in Bangkok on 18 and 19 November.