Bangkok: Thailand`s ruling party escaped punishment in a key Constitutional Court ruling on Wednesday that had threatened to inflame the country`s festering divisions as political rivals rallied in Bangkok.
The verdict on a government bid to establish a fully elected upper house had been keenly anticipated, with thousands of pro- and anti-government protesters massing in the capital.
Bangkok has played host to periodic outbreaks of street violence in recent years and hundreds of riot police were in and around the court ahead of its ruling.
Judges slammed Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra`s party for driving through the change to the charter -- drawn up under the military junta that deposed her divisive brother Thaksin -- calling it "unconstitutional".
But the nine-strong bench stopped short of moving to punish Yingluck`s Puea Thai party.
The scuppered proposal to make the upper house fully elected would have returned the senate to its structure before the 2006 coup that removed Thaksin and ushered in a period of political turmoil.
In its ruling, the bench criticised the process of pushing the amendment through, but "dismissed the petition to dissolve" Puea Thai and its coalition partners.
A verdict that the ruling party acted unconstitutionally could have triggered its dissolution by the court, with leading MPs facing five-year bans from politics.
Analysts said that would have enraged the government`s supporters, including the powerful "Red Shirts" who have massed in their tens of thousands since yesterday in a stadium in the city suburbs.
But the court`s decision was initially welcomed by both sides of Thailand`s political divide.