Dems return Abhisit as leader
TECHNICAL GLITCHES DELAY HISTORIC PRIMARY VOTE
>> 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.