Thailand's prime minister was forced out of office Tuesday along with his Cabinet after a court ruled that he had broken a conflict-of-interest law by hosting TV cooking shows.

Samak Sundaravej's party later unanimously agreed to re-nominate him as a candidate for prime minister, indicating that Thailand is still not free from its deep political crisis that has virtually paralyzed the government, spooked the financial markets and scared away tourists.

"The defendant has violated Article 267 of the constitution, and his position as prime minister has ended," said the head of the nine-judge panel, Chat Chonlaworn.

The rest of the Cabinet will stay in as a caretaker government until a new prime minister is chosen. The senior deputy prime minister, Somchai Wongsawat, meanwhile assumes the prime minister's duties. He is the brother-in-law of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Parliament will meet Friday to vote on a new prime minister, and all parties can nominate candidates.

Tuesday's judgment, broadcast live on television and radio, was greeted with loud cheers and claps from Samak's opponents who have occupied his office compound since Aug. 26 to demand his resignation.

Samak, 73, a self-proclaimed foodie, hosted a popular television cooking show "Tasting and Complaining" for seven years before becoming prime minister. But he also made several appearances after taking office, breaking a constitutional prohibition on private employment while in office.

"His employment at the company can be considered an employment," said Chat. He said Samak gave "conflicting testimony" and that there was an attempt to fabricate evidence "to hide his actions."

Before the court began its session, Samak had said he would honor the verdict. He was not immediately available for comment.

Samak had claimed that he was not an employee of the company that made the show and only received payment for his transportation and the ingredients used for cooking.

The verdict provided a new twist to Thailand's political uncertainty that began in early 2006 when a group of royalists, urban residents and union activists, calling themselves the People's Alliance for Democracy, started demonstrating against Thaksin, accusing the then-prime minister of corruption.

By AMBIKA AHUJA, Associated Press Writer 2 hours, 18 minutes ago

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