The Nation



Democrats keep Abhisit as their party leader

Abhisit Vejjajiva was strongly supported to remain as leader of the Democrat Party in a general assembly yesterday.

Abhisit received 98 per cent of votes. He was the only candidate in the election. Party adviser Banyat Bantadtan nominated his candidacy.

Meanwhile, former Asean secretary-general Surin Pitsuwan, who was suggested as a new Democrat leader to boost the party's image, also attended the meeting but could not vote under regulations, as he was not on the executive board or a former MP.

Surin will probably step in to help run the party via the central committee, with other big names.

Speaking during the assembly, Abhisit said the new executive board, which was endorsed by the Democrats, had to be approved by the Election Commission (EC) in

the next two to three weeks. Then they needed to consult with the old board.

Abhisit will call a meeting of the two boards to make a decision on whether the party will field candidates for the February 2 election or boycott the poll, according to new deputy party leader Khunying Kalaya Sophonpanich.

In the assembly, the party elected a 35-member executive board. A former MP from Phitsanulok, Chuti Krairiksh, was tipped to be the new party secretary-general. Chavanond Intarakomalyasut retained his post as party spokesman. But Alongkorn Ponlaboot, the former deputy leader, lost his post to Satit Pitutacha.

The new executive board has only a few close aides of former MP Suthep Thaugsuban, now head of the People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protest group, such as deputy party leaders Satit, Chamni Sakdiset and Ong-art Klampaiboon.

MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra, the Bangkok governor, was named as a new deputy party leader, but there was concern that this may be a violation of Article 21 of the Statute Organic Act on Political Parties, as some said Sukhumbhand was a government officer. Opponents referred to this law and said government officials were not allowed to be party executives.

So Abhisit had to confirm that Sukhumbhand was qualified after contacting the EC and several law experts by phone.

Members also approved new regulations concerning the party's structure and administration with the party's reform blueprint.

For this change, the party's advisory council was replaced by a new central committee. The party also set up people's assemblies to come up with ideas.

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