The Democrat Party’s new era will kick off with a primary vote by all members for the party leader, said a top party official.
According to the new law governing political parties, they must hold a general meeting to select their party executives within 90 days after the junta lifts its political ban, which is expected any time after June.
The Democrats have decided to add a leadership race to that selection process.
The primary vote for party executives “is a very new thing for political parties and we think no other party will want to employ the means,” said Democrat Party deputy leader Ongart Klampaiboon, Putting the leader position up for a vote “would be the most democratic way,” he said.
The idea came from current party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who insisted that it would help maximise participation and engagement within the party and help members feel that they owned the party, the deputy leader said.
Historically, Thai parties have held conventions composed of representatives of designated groups to choose their party leaders and executives. For the Democrats, around 300 representatives of an estimated over 2 million party members would gather and spend most of one day casting ballots and counting the results.
The idea to directly elect the leader faced some resistance when it was debated, Ongart said. Some feared the potential for abuse, such as the party being hijacked if its popularity was very high in the future. People could be mobilised to apply for party memberships in order to vote for a candidate for the leader’s post, he said.
The party is expected to allow members to use mobile devices to cast their votes for the party leader, reflecting party policy to use technology to promote democracy.
Current party members can confirm their membership status via an application called D-Connect from April 1 to 30.
Ongart said that so far there was no sign that Abhisit, who has served in the position for 12 years in three terms, would be replaced.
Former party leader Chuan won’t return because he did not think the party needs a saviour, Ongart added.