The Democrat Party has spent years in opposition and has recently come up with plans for reform, with the aim of becoming more electable. But the party's deputy leader, Alongkorn Ponlaboot, has come under criticism for causing divisions within the party after proposing a series of reforms. He explained the issues in an interview with the radio news talk show INSIDE THAILAND yesterday.
Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, left, deputy leader Alongkorn Ponlaboot, centre, and party executives talk after holding a press conference on plans to revamp the party in anticipation of a snap election.
Is the Democrat Party really divided?
Do not use the word "divided" _ it is just a normal difference of opinions. The key is to manage the differences and work towards harmony. It is unacceptable to me that facts are distorted to discredit the reform proposals. It is fine for people to oppose the reforms, but they should not make false claims that the party's senior members do not agree with the proposals.
For example, they alleged that the reform proposals emphasise populism, which goes against the principles of the Democrat Party and would just be copying the policies of the Pheu Thai Party.
What is in the reform proposals?
They strongly support democracy, oppose all forms of dictatorship and corruption, and support the public interest. It's time for the 67-year-old Democrat Party to have its own bureau to research and develop national policies and strategies. The party has worked out policies only for election campaigns, and has never systematically developed them. I also propose the party divide its operations into two parts _ developing policies and political affairs.
Thaksin Shinawatra's governments separated political affairs from administration. Such division of work is also seen in every Thaksin-backed government, including the Yingluck administration. They sidestep political questions and insist political affairs are the business of parliament, but we [the Democrats] are always occupied with political issues that bore people. These set the course for us to follow and we get lost in games that bore people and we don't have policies that can compare [with those of the Thaksin-backed administrations].
We haven't realised that victories in small political games only result in defeat in large battles. We have lost battles for 21 years, since 1992.
Do you know who in the party claimed that Chuan Leekpai, the party's advisory chairman, disagreed with the reform proposals?
I have no idea, but I know that I must deny the claim right away to protect the party. I do not take it personally but I believe in systems and structures.
We must strengthen our system and modernise the party. The party must be efficient, really work in the public interest, and be a genuine political institution without belonging to any particular group.
Are you disheartened?
I am not, but sometimes I will say what I have to say. I am only human. What is happening at the moment troubles me. But there are good signs, as the Democrat leader and other executives received and discussed the reform proposals.I don't expect everyone to support my group's proposals, but I don't expect everybody to disagree with them either.
What did the Democrat Party resolve in its May 13 meeting?
There was not a resolution but there was an agreement that the Democrats must be reformed. The reforms must be practical and gain full consent. Democrat MPs will meet on Monday and receive the reform blueprints for study. Party MPs, executives and advisers will scrutinise them for 30 days and then it will be up to the general assembly of the party to decide.