Dems re­turn Ab­hisit as leader


Bangkok Post - - NATIONAL -

>> In their first pri­mary elec­tion to choose a leader, mem­bers of the Demo­crat Party have voted to keep Ab­hisit Ve­j­ja­jiva, for­mer prime min­is­ter and ex-party leader, at the helm.

Mr Ab­hisit gained 67,505 votes, fol­lowed by for­mer Demo­crat Phit­san­u­lok MP Warong Dechgitvi­grom, who re­ceived 57,689 votes, and for­mer party deputy leader Alongkorn Pon­la­boot, who polled 2,285 votes, ac­cord­ing to vote count un­veiled yes­ter­day.

The out­come was co-an­nounced by Chumpol Kan­jana, chair­man of the Demo­crat com­mit­tee re­spon­si­ble for the vot­ing, as well as act­ing party leader Jurin Lak­sanav­isit. Fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment, the three can­di­dates raised hands to­gether.

Dr Warong re­port­edly walked out of the news briefing be­fore Mr Ab­hisit was able to thank party mem­bers.

Dr Warong later posted on his Face­book page, ac­cept­ing the loss. “I still con­firm that I will work with the win­ner for the Demo­crat Party and the coun­try,” he said.

A to­tal of 127,480 party mem­bers took part in the first pri­mary vote re­quired by the new char­ter and elec­tion law. The vot­ing was car­ried out over a week through bal­lots and a mo­bile phone ap­pli­ca­tion. How­ever, the votes ac­counted for only 16% of to­tal party mem­ber num­bers.

Among Mr Ab­hisit’s sup­port­ers to show up were party sec­re­tary-gen­eral Juti Krairiksh as well as deputy lead­ers Chamni Sakdis­eth and Aswin Wi­phusiri. Dr Warong’s sup­port­ers also turned out, in­clud­ing Tha­worn Sen­neam, Withaya Kaew­paradai, Su­pachai Srila and Som­bat Yasin, all for­mer party MPs.

Mr Ab­hisit, speak­ing af­ter the re­sults were an­nounced, said he wanted to thank mem­bers that took part in the elec­tion, “which was a his­toric process for the party and high­lighted the pub­lic demo­cratic pro­ce­dures in­side the camp. This is one of the things hap­pen­ing to Thai po­lit­i­cal par­ties,” the for­mer prime min­is­ter said.

He said he felt over­whelmed by the fact that many party mem­bers were will­ing to take part. “All this gives us a boost to move for­ward,” said Mr Ab­hisit.

Mr Chumpol said he was con­fi­dent party unity will be deep­ened af­ter the vote. Re­fer­ring to a five-hour de­lay yes­ter­day be­fore re­sults were an­nounced, he said tech­ni­cal prob­lems in the IT sys­tem deal­ing with vote count­ing and data pro­cess­ing held things up.

Mr Jurin said the party will hold a gen­eral assem­bly to­day. Based on party reg­u­la­tions, the leader must be en­dorsed by the assem­bly even af­ter win­ning the pri­mary vote. Eyes now turn to whether Dr Warong and Mr Alongkorn will an­nounce they are with­draw­ing from the race be­fore the meet­ing.

Mr Ab­hisit’s vic­tory dimmed hopes the party would form a coali­tion with par­ties that sup­port Prime Min­is­ter Prayut Chan-ocha to re­turn as an out­sider pre­mier, ac­cord­ing to Som­chai Srisut­thiyakorn, for­mer mem­ber of the Elec­tion Com­mis­sion.

“The fact that Mr Ab­hisit was elected as the party leader means Gen Prayut’s chances to re­turn as pre­mier will de­cline,” Mr Som­chai added. Mr Ab­hisit had stated he would not sup­port Gen Prayut to re­turn as out­sider prime min­is­ter.

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