In Thailand, the main opposition party in the last parliament, the Democrats, says it has secured sufficient support from the former coalition parties to lead the next government. Calls from the business community as well as other major players in Thai society for a change of government may see an end to Thailand’s recent heightened political tensions.
Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of Thailand's Democrat Party
Thailand’s oldest political party, the Phak Prachathipat or Democrat Party, which is led by the 44-year-old Oxford-educated Abhisit Vejjajiva, says it has the backing of several smaller parties and factions to form the next government.
Democrat Party secretary general, Suthep Thuagsuban, broke the news to reporters on Tuesday. Appearing with key coalition representatives, he said the new administration would focus on national recovery from the political crisis that has paralysed government administration and damaged the economy.
His words were echoed by party spokesman Buranaj Sumatharak: “The clear strategy of this incoming government is to address the urgent problems with sound policies and a very capable cabinet line-up. The ongoing political crisis has led to a lot of distrust among various factions.”
A week after PPP dissolved
The Democrat Party’s announcement came a week after the former governing People’s Power Party (PPP) was found guilty in a constitutional court verdict of electoral breaches, and dissolved.
The court decision led to 37 party executives, including Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, quitting parliament. They face five-year bans from political participation.
A new party, Puea Thai, was set up to accommodate those former PPP parliamentarians not affected by the court verdict. The party is backed by former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was found guilty earlier this year, whilst in exile, of corruption and sentenced to two years in jail.
Puea Thai says it will fight to regain its hold in parliament but the tide appears to be moving against Thaksin, who remains in exile, and his supporters.
Last week, several key business associations, including the Thai Federation of Industries, called for a new government led by the Democrat Party with full-page advertisements.
Chris Baker, an author and commentator on Thailand politics, said that there had been a lot of behind-the-scenes manoeuvring to press the Democrat Party into taking the lead.
He said “a lot of pressure from powerful institutions like the army and the business community could undo the results of the election and get a very different configuration in parliament.”
Abhisit Vejjajiva will rally support
Although Baker did not think that Abhisit Vejjajiva had Thaksin’s political presence, he thought he would have the strong backing of the Democrat Party, which would help him muster support among the population.
“The Democrat Party is at least a party -- in a much meaningful sense than that of the other political parties in Thailand,” Baker explained. “There will be a quite strong corporate presence to help him and a lot of people grouping around and helping.”
Polls over recent days have pointed to widespread support for a change of government. A university survey backed Abhisit with over 40 percent.
But experts make clear that the new government will also need to win over pro-Thaksin supporters or possibly face renewed street protests.