In this Feb. 2, file photo Thai Prime Minister and Pheu Thai party leader Yingluck Shinawatra, right, smiles as she poses before casting her ballot for the general election at a polling station in Bangkok. / Wally Santana, AP
For the third time in less than a decade a court in Thailand on Wednesday ordered the nation's prime minister to step aside from office.
Yingluck Shinawatra was told to leave office after a constitutional court in Bangkok found her guilty in an abuse of power case.
The verdict was read live on national television.
A caretaker cabinet appointed Deputy Prime Minister Niwatthamrong Boonsongpaisan as Thailand's acting prime minister, and the move brings uncertainty to elections planned for July 20.
Yingluck had been charged with abusing her authority by transferring, in 2011, a senior civil servant, Thawil Pliensri, to another position.
The judge in the case said that move allowed Yingluck to give a relative a new job. Her brother-in-law, Priewpan Damapong, was subsequently named to the post of national police chief.
Yingluck disputed the allegations. The court ruled that ministers not implicated in the case could remain in office.
"The prime minister's status has ended, Yingluck can no longer stay in her position acting as caretaker prime minister," a judge said in a statement.
In a news conference, Yingluck thanked her followers for their support over the past two years, noting that she had been democratically elected.
"We held true to the principles of honesty in running the country, and never acted corruptly, as we were accused," she told reporters.
An adviser to the prime minister, Nopaddon Pattama, said the court's decision was binding, the BBC reports.
"She really has no choice but to be bound by the decision because the constitution says the judgment of the court is binding on all parties, although we are going to make a political protest."
He said remaining cabinet members would continue performing their duties until a new cabinet is formed.
The ruling, however, leaves the country in political limbo and primed for more violence. Since November, more than 20 people have been killed and hundreds injured in sporadic gunbattles, drive-by shootings and grenade attacks.
Yingluck's supporters accuse the courts of toppling Yingluck through unfair use of the legal system after six months of anti-government protests failed to unseat her. Those supporters have vowed to hold a major rally Saturday.
Yingluck's brother, Thaksin Shinawatra, was ousted by a 2006 military coup after protesters accused him of corruption, abuse of power and disrespect for constitutional monarch King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The opposition Democrat Party called on those cabinet members remaining in office to step down as caretaker ministers and deputy ministers, the Bangkok Post reports.
"Everyone should respect the Constitutional Court's ruling and stop dragging the court into politics," said party spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut.
Contributing: Doug Stanglin in McLean, Va.; Associated Press
Follow @dstanglin on Twitter
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