Thailand’s largest opposition party Pheu Thai is due to select a new leader on Thursday with many tipping THaksin Shinawatra’s son-in-law Nuttaphong Kunakornwong to take over as one of the leaders of the party, if not the outright leader.
The idea, according to Pheu Thai insiders, is for Nuttaphong to come in as a senior leader and eventually take over once an election is on the horizon.
The thinking is that Nuttaphong will signal a change in party leadership and become the face of a new generation of Pheu Thai leaders.
But if rumors are true and Nuttaphong does come in as a party leader or is being groomed to eventually take over as the party leader, it would be devolution for the party and not evolution.
There is little arguing that Thaksin’s political brand is spent in Thailand.
While he still has a strong core base of support, Thaksin is not a leader that will appeal to any side but his base.
The reason that Future Forward did so well in the 2019 election and why so many young progressives flocked to its banner is because many younger voters feel unease in voting for a Thaksin-backed party.
Even when the former prime minister has allowed the party to run without his direct guidance, the Sudarat-Chadchat banner was not readily taken up by younger voters because of this unease.
Now, by bringing his son-in-law into the mix, the party will devolve to a state where Thaksin’s meddling hand is clear for all to sea.
This is Yingluck 2.0 and everything that comes with it.
So while it very might get his base excited, it will not appeal and put off many other potential voters – even more so if the rumors are true and the party joins the ruling coalition.
We understand that it would be hard to walk away from any project that has been two-decades in the making but Thaksin needs to continue to divest his direct involvement in the party to enhance its mass appeal, not double down with the selection of yet another family member.
The move would also ensure that Move Forward gains even more progressive votes at Pheu Thai’s expense.
Thaksin’s advisors should remind him how unpopular he still remains with the Thai middle class and the conservatives of Thai society.
They should remind him that the only reason the coup and the PDRC gained so much support was because of opposition to his family name.
By selecting his son-in-law to be leader or to have a leadership role, Thaksin condemns the party o never be more than its perception in society, a proxy for his political ambitions.