Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday presented a bouquet of pricey red roses to, and hugged and shook hands with, faction leader Newin Chidchob in a bid to transform a decade of rivalry into a mutual effort to form a Democrat-led coalition government.
The momentous meeting started with roses from the Netherlands to soften the atmosphere and a picture of Abhisit and Newin embracing, which must be proof of the adage "no lasting friendship and no permanent hostility in politics".
Newin's political shift is seen as a lynchpin to installing Abhisit as prime minister.
Leading Democrats, including party secretary-general Suthep Thaugsuban, and core members of the Friends of Newin faction turned out in force to witness Abhisit and Newin seal their political deal.
Seen smiling at the event was former Thai Rak Thai Party executive Anuthin Chanweerakul, son of caretaker Prime Minister Chaovarat Chanweerakul. This quelled speculation that Chaovarat might dissolve the House to prevent an Abhsit government taking office.
In endorsing Abhisit's leadership, Newin said he based his decision on four things - hope that the Democrats can lift the country out of political turmoil, a need for the government to urgently address the plight of grass-roots people, rewrite the charter to advance democracy and uphold the rule of law.
"I want to ensure every Democrat that nothing can make me waver in my stand on the vote for prime minister," he said in reference to intense lobbying efforts for his group to join a coalition led by the Pheu Thai Party.
It was no time for games to fuel political uncertainty, he said.
In response, Abhisit pledged not to let down Newin's aspirations.
He said he would aim to be a prime minister for all Thai citizens living across the country, and vowed to bring about reconciliation.
Commenting on a rewrite of the Constitution, he said a few provisions were problematic but he would proceed with caution to improve on the political system and avoid turning the process into a political feud.
In an interview after, Newin admitted he had had to overcome a deep emotional struggle before finalising a decision, which many may wrongly see as a betrayal of former PM and ally Thaksin Shinawatra.
"I do what I am obligated to do because I have to find a way out for Thailand, regardless of my personal feelings," he said explaining why he had distanced his faction from his Pheu Thai allies.
He said it was painful to have to turn down Thaksin's asking him to reaffirm his political loyalty. He still had fond memories of Thaksin's leadership and had no intention of |severing their ties.
"In my mind, Thaksin is always the boss," he said.
He said his faction members were fully braced for any consequences by voting to install Abhisit as premier.
He refused to speculate on the next move of House Speaker Chai Chidchob, arguing that as a son, he was in no position to dictate his father's decision.
Before meeting Newin, the Democrats called on faction leader Suwat Liptapanlop to talk about forming the coalition.
Abhisit sought and received Suwat's blessing for the Ruam Jai Chart Pattana Party to join the Democrat-led coalition.
"Abhisit is a young leader who can rejuvenate the political scene and lead the country to new heights," Suwat said after the meeting.
He added that he had no involvement in forming the government, but he saw Abhisit as having the necessary leadership qualities.