Opinion: Like a phoenix (or a cockroach) the Democrat Party rises again

Thailand’s oldest political party looked down after the last election. They had lost seats in their Bangkok strongholds, they reneged on their promise to not join the military-led government of Prayut Chan-ocha and their southern holdings looked tenuous at best.

Fast forward three years and the Democrat Party looks set to gain back some of their lost holdings, defying analysts predictions that the party was done and out.

For many observers after the 2019 election, the Democrats were an object of pity or even contempt. Long a proxy for the establishment and conservatives, the Democrats had lost their way leading to their poorest showing at polls in years.

After all, those that wanted the military-backed stability of Prayut Chan-ocha could vote for him directly. While those that were opposed to the despotic encroachment of democracy had other options.

It seemed that the future of the Democrat Party was bleak at best.

But now with the return of the two-ballot system, the implosion of the military-backed Palang Pracharath Party, and the ongoing instability caused by the pandemic, the Democrat Party might actually gain seats in the next election.

The biggest loser in all of this mess is the PPRP. The ongoing fight between powerbroker Thammanat Prompao and the Prime Minister means that the party will not exist as is ahead of the next election.

Something will give, Prayut or Thammanat will leave the party and take a sizable portion of MPs with them wherever they end up.

The ongoing mismanagement of the pandemic by the Prayut Chan-ocha government has also lost the ruling party a sizable number of supporters from the conservative class. Many even said that if the student-protesters did not touch upon the monarchy, they would join them in marching against the government.

That is a seismic shift, one that could see the Democrat Party take advantage.

Whether or not they do remains to be seen. The Democrat Party are still saddled with the baggage that they joined the military-led coalition even thought they promised not to do so. They are still hampered by a lack of leadership or likable leadership anyway. Jurin Laksanawisit, the party leader and deputy prime minister, is deeply unpopular both in his own party and with the general public. Party patriarch Chuan Leekpai is so old he worked in the Prime Minister’s Office under Seni Pramoj.

Clearly the party is in need of new ideas. But the notion that they were done and out seems to have been premature. Like a phoenix, or more accurately a cockroach, Thailand’s oldest political party rises again.

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