Question: How has Thailand’s oldest political party become a medium-size afterthought?
Currently, continuing factionalism within the Democrats threatens to weaken the party even more. A faction, led by Panich Vikitsreth and Nipit Intarasombat, wants out of General Prayuth Chan-o-Cha’s coalition government. Why? The latest scandal allegedly over face-mask hoarding is seen as the final straw. Enough is enough.
Once Thailand’s second largest political party, today the Democrats are down to just 52 MPs. Suthep Thuagsuban has a new boss. Abhisit Vejjajiva is sidelined. Korn Chatikavanij has left. It is but a medium-size party, with no star-power outside of Chuan Leekpai.
Even with the disbanding of Future Forward, homeless MPs chose to enter the arms of Bhumjaitai, none chose the Democrats. For the past year, defecting opposition MPs have been going over to Bhumjaitai or Palang Pracharat, ignoring Thailand’s oldest political party.
What happened to the Democrats?
The answer is, in the 2011 national elections, the Democrats won 159 MP seats, the most in party history. But it lost the elections to Pheu Thai Party. Which means, it couldn’t beat the forces of Thaksin Shinawatra. In the Thai political game, if you can’t beat Thaksin, then what good are you to the generals and those who rule Thailand from behind the shadow?
Here’s a brief history of the Thai political conflicts.
Thaksin became too powerful, prompting the 2006 coup, then a one-year interim government. In the 2008 elections, Thaksin’s nominee People’s Power Party won, Samak Sundaravej became prime minister. Five months later, Samak was banned because of a side-job hosting a cooking show on TV. Then, a censor debate, in which coalition partners were “persuaded” to defect to the opposition, led by the Democrats. Abhisit became prime minister, People’s Power was dissolved.
Key to the game is this
A fictional general: “Okay, we have everything set up for you. All you have to do is win the next general elections. Let’s delay it for as long as possible, but it will come. So just win it, okay?”
The year 2011 came along, the Democrats had their best showing, but still lost to Pheu Thai Party. Conclusion, the Democrats just can’t get it done. Solution, the 2014 coup, some five years of dictatorship and Palang Pracharat Party.
Come 2019, the voters knew what the generals knew. If you are a voter who’s anti-anything-Thaksin, the only way to win is to vote Palang Pracharat. Why? General Prayuth has 250 handpicked senators and a funny calculator. What did the Democrats have? A losing record. Therefore, what was left for the Democrats were loyal supporters, which got them 52 MP seats.
There are other smaller factors involved, but the deciding factor, the end-game for the generals and those who rule Thailand from behind the shadow is simply this: Beat Thaksin; control power.
So here we are today, the consequence of losing. A medium-size party with continuing internal dissensions that may weaken it even more. Someone has to step up and take charge of the Democrats.
The question is, who?