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Pheu Thai faces struggle to replace Yongyuth as leader

ACM Sukampol Suwannathat

ACM Sukampol Suwannathat

Key figures in the ruling Pheu Thai Party appear to have no desire to serve as its leader. Some have quietly told confidants, while others have publicly ruled themselves out of contention.

The party must find a new leader after Yongyuth Wichaidit resigned from the seat last Wednesday, only six days after he quit as deputy prime minister and interior minister.

Yongyuth's resignations came amid mounting pressure from critics and the opposition after the National Anti-Corruption Commission found him guilty of malfeasance in connection with the Alpine land scandal while he was deputy permanent secretary for the interior a decade ago.

With Yongyuth's departure, all the remaining 17 party executives have now become caretakers, waiting to be replaced by a new executive board.

The caretaker board is scheduled to meet tomorrow to select a caretaker party leader. They will schedule a general meeting of the party to select its new executive board. It will take one to two months to find a new leader.

The new leader does not have to be an expert or professional politician, but he or she needs to have some experience, management skills and acceptance from party members, Pheu Thai's Noppadon Pattama said. He is a legal adviser to ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who pulls the strings behind the ruling party.

The adviser said such qualifications meant the new party leader could come from the outgoing executive or outside the party. He or she could also be former executives of the disbanded Thai Rak Thai Party who completed a five-year political ban at the end of May.

So far, likely candidates from the party's inner circle, including Thaksin's sisters Yingluck and Yaowapa Wongsawat, have told trusted aides they don't want to be part of the party's executive. The decision is understandable after Pheu Thai's two previous incarnations - Thai Rak Thai and People Power - were dissolved for breaking the law and their executives banned from politics for five years.

Other candidates, such as Defence Minister ACM Sukampol Suwannathat and Pheu Thai director Phumtham Wechayachai, have also ruled out the possibility of becoming the new leader.


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