Thailand’s Democrat Party in crisis following mass leadership change

Photo courtesy of Bangkok Post

The Democrat Party in Thailand teeters on the brink of a crisis, following an overwhelming loss of members due to a recent change in leadership, according to the party’s former leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. Chalermchai Sri-on, the ninth elected leader of the Democrats, took over the reins amidst internal turmoil.

Abhisit, in his first public comment since the leadership election on December 9, used social media to express his concerns about the party’s critical state. He also confirmed his departure from the party during the assembly.

“I am both perplexed and dismayed at the level of understanding in this room about the crisis our party is facing.”

Previously, Abhisit was proposed as a candidate for the party leadership by the party’s patriarch and ex-leader, Chuan Leekpai. Rejecting the nomination, Abhisit announced his resignation instead. This decision arrived amidst reports suggesting that the party vote might have been manipulated to favour Chalermchai, the party’s secretary-general and acting leader during the General Election.

Abhisit rejects the notion that the party’s decline, evident from its fall in MPs from 53 in the 2019 general election to 25 in this year’s poll, is due to its internal structure, regulations, or lack of funds. He stated that no secretary-general in the party’s history had rallied more support for the party than Chalermchai during his tenure.

The party’s downfall, according to Abhisit, is because it fails to make clear what the Democrat Party represents or the ideology it stands for. In a country divided into conservative and pro-democracy camps, the Democrats have struggled to position themselves as a viable choice for the people. Conservative voters prefer former Premier Prayut Chan-o-cha, while the pro-democracy faction views the Democrats as allies of Prayut.

“Identifying where we stand, who we represent, and how we do it is crucial. Politics is a rollercoaster ride. But there’s no guarantee that a rise will follow a decline if we fail to learn from our mistakes.”

Democrats quit party

Critics speculate that under Chalermchai’s leadership, the party could lose its firm foothold in the south of Thailand. The party also runs the risk of over-relying on winning constituency MPs, which often involves highly competitive races.

In a notable moment during the meeting, Abhisit took a brief 10-minute break with Chalermchai. Upon his return, he announced that he had given up his party membership, reported Bangkok Post.

“I have no intentions of switching to another party. If you cut me, I bleed blue.”

Abhisit referred to the Democrats’ symbolic colour.

More prominent Democrats and former MPs resigned from the party, including Sathit Wongnongtoey and Orn-anong Kanchanachusak. On December 9, ex-party MP and former deputy public health minister Sathit Pitutecha announced his departure from the party.

Sathit Wongnongtoey, after 28 years as a member, decided to split with the Democrats, expressing his belief that the party’s core principles and spirit no longer held sway.

Bangkok NewsPolitics NewsThailand News

Mitch Connor

Mitch is a Bangkok resident, having relocated from Southern California, via Florida in 2022. He studied journalism before dropping out of college to teach English in South America. After returning to the US, he spent 4 years working for various online publishers before moving to Thailand.

Related Articles