Somkid takes an early lead in race to become prime minister
Six factions in the Thai Rak Thai Party yesterday decided to push for Somkid Jatusripitak as the next prime minister, to free the party from the overbearing influence of the current party leader Thaksin Shinawatra.
Wang Nam Yom (130 MPs), Rim Nam (15 MPs), Lamtakong (7 MPs), Wang Phya Nag (10 MPs), Chon Buri (7 MPs) and the Central provinces (10 MPs) factions moved to decide on the best candidate for the post following Thaksin Shinwatra's decision to take a break. They discussed the issue via a phone conference and decided to push for Somkid.
A source from the Wang Nam Yom faction, the party's largest, said the other factions agreed Somkid was the best candidate because of his clean image and independence. It was agreed Somkid's more independent position made him better equipped to coordinate and balance the power between Thaksin's trusted aides and other factions.
Somkid is also recognised for his competence in economic management and has a successful track record with previous Thai Rak Thai Party policies. Following the economic effects of the recent political crisis, a candidate with excellent economic management skills would also be considered appropriate.
The source said the party should take the opportunity to "clean up the house" and remove the system that operates the political party as a company, weakening factions within the party.
Dr Suthichai Chan-arak, from Rim Nam faction, said the party must learn its lesson by refusing to let the leader or one group hold a monopoly of power over the party's future or government policies.
He said Thaksin is expected to call a party meeting to explain his decision to take a political break, adding he hoped the party would also discuss the candidates for the role of prime minister. "If the party leader does not allow party members to take part in the decision making and correct the situation, the party will become extinct," he said.
The factions argued Somkid and Pongthep Thepkanchana were suitable candidates for the role and Bhokin Bhalakula - who is believed to be favoured by Thaksin for the role - Chidchai Vanasatidya, and Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan were not.
They cited image problems as the main reason for ruling out Bhokin, because of his association with Thaksin and links to former corruption allegations concerning the purchase of fire trucks. They said Sudarat lacked the ability to coordinate the factions.