The 2019 election was a route for Thailand’s oldest political party. Not only did the Democrat party gain a historically low number of seats but its former base of support in Bangkok had withered, divided between the progressive Future Forward Party and the military-aligned Palang Pracharath Party.
Fuel was added to the fire in June when local media reported of infighting within the party with many MPs unhappy with the lack of leadership from Deputy Prime Minister and Party Leader Jurin Laksanawisi. Several MPs threatened to quit from the executive council unless there was a new leadership contest. However, it seems, that Jurin has managed to placate his party for the time being.
To political observers, though, it is undeniable that the Democrats have not lived up to any of its electoral promises.
It reneged on the promises made by its leadership before the election that it would not join any military-aligned party or vote for Prayut Chan-ocha to be prime minister. The party has also not pushed through any constitutional reform that it said was the reason for its joining the coalition.
Khun Jurin has been lacklustre as the Minister of Commerce, failing to ensure availability of commodities and prices during the coronavirus pandemic.
Democrat insiders told Thai Enquirer earlier in July that if an election were held this month that the party would likely gain even fewer seats that its disastrous 2019 showing.
The party has also failed to keep longtime stalwarts and upcoming politicians due to its flip-flopping on campaign promises and floundering electoral charges. Former Finance Minister Korn Chatikavanij left to start his own party with several Democrat allies while up and coming politicians like Parit Wacharasindhu left the party out of disillusionment with the leadership.
Now, reports are coming out from the Democrat camp that a significant faction of southern MPs are considering jumping ship to join former Deputy Prime Minister and Deputy Party Leader Suthep Thaugsuban’s party.
The southern Democrat MPs are the last power base that the Democrat have and if they were to leave, the party would cease to be a national player and become just another small party stuck in political purgatory.
If that were the case, the party will have no one to blame but themselves. With no ideological anchor to ground the party and with an ageing leadership dictated from the top by Chuan Leekpai, the party has refused to evolve even when reality necessitates evolution.
As a result, the party has become a rudderless, sinking vessel unworthy of being saved.