Abhisit downplays rift in ranks fears

Abhisit downplays rift in ranks fears

Returning Dems share stance, leader insists

It's lonely at the top for Democrat Party chief Abhisit Vejjajiva. (Bangkok Post file photo)
It's lonely at the top for Democrat Party chief Abhisit Vejjajiva. (Bangkok Post file photo)

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva has played down fears of competing ideologies within party ranks after the return of eight former co-leaders of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

The eight former party members left in late 2013 to join the now-defunct PDRC movement to oust the Pheu Thai-led government of the time and were welcomed back last month.

However, their return has raised fears among Democrats that they may bring with them some differing political ideologies, said Alongkorn Ponlaboot, deputy chairman of the National Reform Steering Assembly (NRSA).

They may have different stances on party reform, party leadership, national reform and the prime minister, said Mr Alongkorn, also a former Democrat MP.

The eight former PDRC co-leaders are Thaworn Senniam, Akanat Promphan, Sathit Wongnongtoey, Witthaya Kaewparadai, Issara Somchai, Buddhipongse Punnakanta, Natapol Teepsuwan and Sakontee Phattiyakul.

Suthep Thaugsuban, who led the charge against the Pheu Thai government as PDRC chief in 2013, will not join them.

The return of the group comes as the party prepares for an election of its leader and executives later this year. Their return may affect political affairs inside the party, he said.

However, Mr Abhisit said he had talked to the eight, and they insisted they still shared the Democrat values of fighting abuses of power, and particularly problems they say were created by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and his affiliated parties, such as Pheu Thai.

Mr Abhisit said the party is an institution with clear political principles for everyone to follow, so there are unlikely to be any major differences among Democrats.

"Abiding by the Democrat Party's principles is what they [the eight politicians] said they would do. I was also at the talks," Mr Abhisit said. "Everyone is happy to unite and work together."

Mr Abhisit also said he agrees with ex-Democrat leader Bhichai Rattakul's four-party alliance idea for nominating the next prime minister candidate.

Mr Bhichai wants the Democrat, Pheu Thai, Bhumijaithai and Chartthaipattana parties to join hands to support the party with the most MPs when it nominates a prime minister candidate. This is aimed at avoiding worries over military influence via its appointed 250-member Senate.

Under the new charter, senators can join MPs in proposing a motion to suspend a rule requiring prime ministerial candidates come from political party lists if a joint MP-Senate session fails to vote for a premier from those lists. This would pave the way for an independent prime minister.

Mr Abhisit said the Senate should not exercise its right if it goes against "the intention of the people", suggesting a prime minister should be elected rather than appointed.

However, Seree Suwanpanont, who leads an NRSA committee on political reform, warned a four-party alliance may be a way to monopolise power.

Mr Seree said if two big parties joined hands, nobody in parliament would be able to keep them in check, and this could risk sparking another political crisis.

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