IT BECAME official yesterday that the contest for the Democrat Party leader’s seat is a three-horse race, with the current holder being challenged by two colleagues.
Incumbent Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, former party MP Warong Dechgitvigrom and former deputy leader Alongkorn Ponlaboot applied yesterday to take part in the contest at the party’s headquarters.
Abhisit and Alongkorn made it clear that if they won the contest, they would not support an outsider prime minister who had not been nominated by any political party. However, Warong said he would work with anyone who is against corruption and would not care about the “rhetoric” about dictatorship versus democracy.
“Corruption is an obstacle to the country’s development. Our principle is to suppress corruption. So we can work with whoever shares this principle,” he told Kom Chad Luek Online, The Nation’s sister media outlet.
“We don’t look at the political rhetoric as to who is a dictator and who is democratic. There’s a lot of fake democracy. Some parties claim to be democratic but their leader are not elected democratically,” he added.
Warong was responding to a question about whether he would back General Prayut Chan-o-cha to return as prime minister after the election.
In response to the same question, Alongkorn said he would back General Prayut only if he was a prime ministerial candidate nominated by a political party contesting the election. “I disagree with an outsider prime minister, whoever he is. For the sake of legitimacy, the prime minister must be a party candidate,” he added. Under the current Constitution, each party is required to nominate no more than three PM candidates. An outsider may become prime minister if MPs fail to reach agreement, thus triggering a second round of voting that would include senators, many of whom will be appointed by the junta.
Alongkorn, formerly a deputy Democrat leader, became a member of the National Reform Assembly after the 2014 military coup. He is now deputy president of the junta-appointed National Reform Steering Council.
Abhisit had earlier maintained that he would not support an outsider prime minister.
The three competitors for the Democrat leader’s seat gathered at the party’s HQ yesterday. They were accompanied by supporters and staff members. During the drawing of lots for the candidacy numbers, Alongkorn offered to get No 3 and so only the two others drew lots. Abhisit got No 1 and Warong No 2.
As a sign of goodwill, Abhisit and Warong also shared some of their former-MP supporters with Alongkorn, who had a paperwork problem regarding his list of required backers.
Jurin Laksanawisit, deputy Democrat leader acting as the caretaker leader, was in charge of the application process at the party HQ yesterday. Applications closed at 4.30pm yesterday.
Jurin said that the contestants would send their representatives to join the working group charged with sounding out party members over who should become the next Democrat leader.
Three groups of Democrat members would be allowed to vote: 80,000-plus current members who recently confirmed their membership, new members who apply within October 15, and some 2.5 million former members who had failed to confirm their membership within the deadline imposed by the junta.
The sounding out would be held from November 1 to 5 and the working group would report the result to the party’s executive board, said Jurin. A party general assembly will convene on November 11, to select the new leader and other executive members.