PPRP left reeling by Abhisit
Analysis: Democrat leader drops 'no Prayut for PM' bombshell
The Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) faces a tougher task securing the votes it needs after Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva dropped his bombshell declaration that he will not support Gen Prayut Chan-o-cha to return as prime minister.
This could be a serious blow to the PPRP's election campaign, especially in the Northeast and the North which are political strongholds of the anti-regime Pheu Thai Party, according to a highly placed PPRP source.
The PPRP, which nominated Gen Prayut as its only candidate for prime minister, is said to be trailing Pheu Thai in both regions and Mr Abhisit's anti-regime stance will be used to keep their momentum going, the source said.
According to the source, the Democrat Party had been seen as sympathetic to the regime, so this latest move hints at the party changing tack.
With the announcement coming just two weeks before a poll branded as being a contest between the pro-democracy bloc and the pro-regime camp, the PPRP may now end up capturing fewer seats than planned, the source said.
The party source said PPRP heavyweights are upset at Mr Abhisit's announcement and see it as an attempt to gang up against the party, especially after Bhumjaithai leader Anutin Charnvirakul recently also gave the regime the cold shoulder.
Action Coalition for Thailand Party (ACT) founder Suthep Thaugsuban, however, lashed out at Mr Abhisit.
Mr Suthep, who quit the Democrat Party to lead street protests against the Yingluck administration, asked Mr Abhisit if he is siding with ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to fulfil his ambition to be the next prime minister.
"His remarks encourage people to believe that Mr Abhisit is ready to do anything to be the prime minister ... We believe the move will backfire as it raises the question of whether the Democrat Party will join hands with the Pheu Thai Party," said the source.
While Gen Prayut kept silence on the matter, PPRP leader Uttama Savanayana has shrugged off Mr Abhisit's announcement.
"It's up to the people. The PPRP will carry on with the election campaign. There's nothing for us to say except we support Gen Prayut as the prime minister," he said.
Bombarded by criticism, Mr Abhisit defended himself, saying Monday he has no personal grudge against Gen Prayut to whom he is thankful for the support when he served as the prime minister during the political crisis.
With party executives sitting next to him, he said Gen Prayut's prolonged stay in power could easily lead to political conflicts.
"In making my decision, I can't let personal relations in. I have to decide based on the long-term benefits for the country," Mr Abhisit said.
According to the Democrat leader, the party would serve as the opposition if it cannot find common ground with other parties. For the Democrat Party and the PPRP to work together, the regime's legacy -- be it Gen Prayut or orders against democratic principles -- would have to be dropped.
He expressed confidence that Democrat members would not break away from the party's principles and insisted it would not work with Pheu Thai, which he accused of not being free from outside influence.
Deputy Democrat Party leader Nipit Intarasombat said Monday the party members stand behind Mr Abhisit and believe the party will finish the March 24 race ahead of the PPRP.
He said if the party has the legitimacy to form a coalition, its members have to support the party leader as the prime minister.
"They can't support a prime minister candidate pushed forward by a party that wins fewer House seats. It's against democratic principles," he said.
However, he added the party has not ruled out the possibility of working with the PPRP.
- See also: Pheu Thai demands Abhisit clarify