January 23, 2013 00:00
By Attayuth Bootsripoom
Chart Thai Pattana, Banharn may struggle without Chumpol
The death of Chumpol Silapa-archa on Monday is a big loss for his coalition Chart Thai Pattana Party and poses a great challenge for its bargaining power – and even its survival.
Chumpol’s elder brother Banharn will certainly suffer the most among those in the party – not only as his close family member but also as the party’s patriarch.
Without Chumpol, Banharn has lost his most trusted man in politics, and the party will be in a difficult position, amidst mounting pressure from fellow coalition parties for its coveted Tourism and Sports portfolio.
Chumpol was serving in that position, as well as holding a deputy prime minister post, when he died of renal and heart failure at the age of 72.
When he was with Chart Thai, Chumpol was credited for working with activists to make political reform possible in 1995, a movement that culminated in the Constitution of 1997.
He later left Chart Thai to contest successfully for a senatorial seat.
Deal between brothers
Chumpol re-entered the Lower House only after Chart Thai was dissolved. By serving as Chart Thai Pattana leader, he received the baton from Banharn and helped carry on the Chart Thai legacy.
Banharn is having difficulty trying to keep the Tourism portfolio for his party.
According to sources, politicians from the ruling Pheu Thai Party are seeking to have the party oversee the Tourism and Sports Ministry in exchange for “a ministry of the same level” to be offered to Chart Thai Pattana.
The Palang Chon Party, another smaller coalition partner, is also reportedly eyeing the Tourism portfolio.
Ex-premier Thaksin Shina-watra, who has been in self-exile overseas, was separately lobbied by politicians from Palang Chon and Pheu Thai for the tourism minister’s seat, according to the sources. Banharn himself reportedly flew to meet Thaksin himself to discuss this matter.
Thaksin is believed to be pulling the strings behind the ruling party.
Banharn needs support
Banharn, with much less political clout than when he was prime minister almost two decades ago, will have to rely on his good ties with Thaksin in order to keep the seat.
Chart Thai Pattana came into existence after Banharn’s Chart Thai Party was dissolved by court order in December 2008 for electoral fraud.
All of Chart Thai’s executives, including party leader Ban-harn, were stripped of their electoral rights for five years.
The ban ends in December this year.
Banharn officially served as chief adviser to the late party leader, and is believed to have retained his influence in Chart Thai Pattana although he is not part of its executive board due to the political ban.
With most of his trusted lieutenants banned from politics along with him, even if he succeeds in keeping the Tourism portfolio, Banharn will have only a few choices left as to who should succeed Chumpol.
Among the few choices in the party is Pradit Pattaraprasit, who is not counted among Banharn’s trusted aides.
Pradit, a veteran politician, came from another political party. He is unlikely to follow instructions from Banharn.
Banharn may look to choices from outside the party but those people, including a former provincial governor and a former permanent secretary, lack certain qualities required to become a minister and could become an easy target for political attack.