(Bloomberg) -- Thai opposition parties filed a petition to remove Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-Ocha on constitutional grounds, months before the government is due to complete its four-year term next year and elections are called. 

Pheu Thai Party and five others in the opposition submitted a petition to House Speaker Chuan Leekpai on Wednesday, asking the Constitutional Court to determine when Prayuth’s term ends as they said he comes up against an eight-year limit next week as prime minister. 

The move posed a fresh challenge for coup leader-turned-premier Prayuth ahead of general elections he is expected to call by late March next year. 

“Facts matter. It’s clear that the Constitution intends to prevent a prolonged stay in power,” Pheu Thai leader Cholnan Srikaew told reporters in a briefing. 

The petition, signed by 171 opposition lawmakers, also asked the court to suspend Prayuth from office until a verdict is reached, Cholnan said. The signatures well exceeded a requirement for a tenth of the 500-member House of Representatives to support the petition. 

Prayuth would complete eight years on the job next week, as the former junta chief was officially appointed as prime minister on Aug. 24, 2014. Staying beyond Aug. 23 this year would breach the constitutional eight-year limit, Cholnan said. 

But Prayuth’s supporters have given different start dates for his premiership. They have argued that the military-backed Constitution came into effect in 2017 and may not be used retroactively. Another group has said Prayuth only became a civilian prime minister after elections in 2019. 

The parliament will verify the petition and forward it to the Constitutional Court within a matter of days, house speaker Chuan told reporters. There is no specific time frame for when the court would consider the issue. 

If the court determines that Prayuth’s eight-year deadline is next week and forces him out of office, the parliament will select an interim prime minister as stipulated by the charter, Cholnan said. But in the case that it cannot reach a consensus to name any candidate, the interim position will go to Prayuth, he said. 

The opposition’s move also fueled speculations whether Prayuth would dissolve the parliament as soon as next week, before the Constitutional Court could issue a verdict, and call for snap elections in order to stay on as interim in the meantime. 

Prayuth declined to comment when asked by reporters earlier on Wednesday. 

According to a later statement by government spokesman Thanakorn Wangboonkongchana, Prayuth will not dissolve the parliament at this time and intended to spend what remains of his tenure to work for Thai people. 

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