Chalermchai to lead Democrats

Chalermchai to lead Democrats

'madam dear' misses out on bid

Chalermchai: Chosen unopposed
Chalermchai: Chosen unopposed

Acting leader of the Democrat Party, Chalermchai Sri-on, was on Saturday elected its new leader amid speculation the party, the country's oldest, was at risk of crumbling.

Mr Chalermchai was chosen unopposed after former party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva withdrew his candidacy and announced his resignation as a party member to "allow those entrusted with leading the party to work with peace of mind".

Watanya "Madam Dear" Bunnag, chairwoman of the political innovation committee, was unable to contest the post because she failed to win enough support from the meeting to waive a regulation requiring a candidate to have been with the party for five years. She defected from the Palang Pracharath Party last year.

Sathit Pitutecha, a former deputy leader, also quit his party membership, saying the party had abandoned its ideology and could be eventually abandoned by voters too.

The meeting, chaired by Mr Chalermchai, was the third attempt to fill the leadership void after two previous attempts failed due to a lack of quorum.

After the meeting convened, former leader Chuan Leekpai nominated Mr Abhisit as a party leader candidate and expressed confidence he could get the party on a democratic path and restore its former glory. Mr Abhisit, however, said that without unity the party could not move forward and asked for a recess so he could hold talks with Mr Chalermchai.

Before ordering a 10-minute recess, Mr Chalermchai gave his assurance that he strictly adhered to democratic principles and would not let the party become a "spare part."

After emerging from the talks, Mr Abhisit withdrew from the race and announced his resignation. "I have no association with any party. My political allegiance is always blue [the party's colour]. And to give those entrusted with leading the party peace of a mind, I decided to quit," he said. Mr Abhisit bade farewell, left the meeting and refused to comment when approached by reporters.

The leadership contest resumed in which acting deputy leader Dech-it Khaothong nominated Mr Chalermchai as the party leader candidate. He was supported by 219 votes.

Khayan Wipromchai, a former MP for Lamphun, nominated Ms Watanya as a contender and asked the meeting to waive the regulation requiring a candidate to be with the party for five years. Mr Chuan also spoke in support of the proposed waiver.

But Ms Watanya had only 139 votes, lower than the required 195 votes. She said she had yet to decide if she would stay on with the party and would not accept just any party post.

Mr Chalermchai ran unopposed and promised to restore party unity and uphold its principles. He received 88.5% support and became the 9th Democrat leader.

In an interview, Mr Sathit said the Democrat Party had abandoned its ideology when some of the MPs voted for Srettha Thavisin as the prime minister. He said some members were prone to cronyism instead of upholding ideological principles and the party did not try to adapt to changes. Some members were also considering quitting.

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