After having failed to win a general election for the past 20 years, the Democrat Party has become aware of the need for reform, but no concrete moves have been made in that direction so far.
Alongkorn Ponlaboot, deputy party leader in charge of the Central region who has been pushing hard for reforms, says the party’s “reform ship” has sailed away though it remains unclear if this ship is heading in the right direction.
In an interview with the Nation News Agency, he said that all Democrat Party executives, including the party leader and secretary-general, agreed that reform was needed.
At the party’s general meeting, Alongkorn said it was time for reforms to be put in place, particularly in the wake of the recent Bangkok governor poll. Though Democrat candidate Sukhumbhand Paribatra won the election, observers believe that this was only because Bangkokians did not want a proxy of ex-PM Thaksin Shinawatra to become their governor, and not because they have genuine faith in the party.
Alongkorn noted that the last general election won by the country’s oldest surviving political party was in 1992. The party recently celebrated its 67th year. He explained that it was necessary for the party to restructure in order to improve the efficiency of the Democrats’ “ageing engine”.
He said that when the Democrats lost the 2001 general election to Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party, he thought it was because Thaksin was quick in coming up with new policies. Then, after winning the election, Thaksin’s party immediately implemented its campaign promises, resulting in strong public faith and popularity.
“Don’t put it down to vote-buying, electoral fraud or populism,” Alongkorn said.
“Today we have to look back and start searching for answers. We should figure out what mistakes we’ve been making and our weaknesses and rectify them in order to improve ourselves.”
The veteran politician said he had proposed that the party’s culture and personnel undergo “serious reform” in order to boost the party’s chance of winning a general election.
“We know the question but have not been able to find the correct answer. This is because we are trapped in the old culture and old thoughts.
“Our competitors – from Thai Rak Thai to Pheu Thai – have changed the way they play the game, while we stay the same, so the other side knows about our game plan. We have only some new players, and they are just substitutes,” he said.
However, Alongkorn conceded that it would be difficult to reform the party, and it would face opposition, especially from within. Yet, in order to restore the party’s reputation, reform of the party’s structure, management, culture and personnel was necessary.
“We have to come up with better strategies than Pheu Thai in order to beat them,” he said.