11 July 2024

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said he hopes senators would respect the wishes of the people and the decision of the House of Representatives by allowing leader of a party which can command the majority after the election  to govern the country.

“Election must be free and fair and meaningful.  What is the use of an election if  the wish of the people is not respected,” said the Democrat party leader in a Facebook livestream interview with Thai PBS on Thursday as he pointed out that the Constitution allows the 250 senators to have a role in choosing the next prime minister after the election.

Commenting on the junta’s recent order to ease political restrictions for political parties, Abhisit said the relaxation of the constraints is more about administrative affairs and “nothing more”.

“We feel that political engagement with the people is more important.  We feel that if Thailand is to move ahead, election must be free and fair.  If we can engage with the people, it is better,” said Abhisit, adding that the National Council for Peace and Order is not prepared to allow parties to engage with the people until after the election law becomes effective in December.

“They (NCPO) appear to think that everything can wait until the election law becomes effective.  They tend to believe that political parties exist just to seek political power in elections,” he said.

“I am sure they hear me, but they want to stick to their own plan that we should not do any campaigning until December,” said Abhisit when asked about what was the junta’s response to his call for political parties to engage with the people.

On the Democrat party leadership race, the Democrat party leader said his job now is to set up a system for a primary leadership vote which will set an example for other parties to follow suit.

Details about the system are being worked out, he said, citing the use of applications on the mobile phone in the election of party leadership which he believes will engage a lot of people.

However, he said that the party must also make room for party members who want to vote in the old way “but that is not easy because we have limited resources to run those kind of voting”.

“We look at all the options.  I expect the competition to be constructive,” he said of the upcoming race to choose a new Democrat leader.

Asked about potential candidates for the party leadership race, Abhisit said he knew only of Dr Warong Dejkitvigrom, former MP of Phitsanulok province, who has expressed interest to join the contest.

He dismissed suggestions that such competition could lead to division and conflict in the Democrat party although he admitted that all competitions are bound to have tensions that can be exaggerated “but we want to demonstrate that we are mature enough to make this system constructive.”

“One of the motivations behind my idea to do this is that I hope we can get over the idea that competition is always divisive.  Democracy is about choice, about election and competition.  Democracy should begin within parties as well,” said Abhisit.

The Democrat leader said the party has new ideas and is changing, citing the primary vote for the party leadership is already a big change and other dramatic changes like the proposed election of governors.

Commenting on the use of social media for campaigning or communicating with the people, Abhisit pointed out that social media has become the main source of information for the people although he admitted there are risks for the use of the social media such as fake news, hate speeches and the use of the media to incite public unrest.

But he maintained that denying the use of social media by parties to communicate with their supporters or to exchange views with them is “unrealistic and unnatural”, noting that there are laws to deal with such risks.

He admitted that the Democrat Party is seeing defection by some of its former MPs who have been poached by a pro-military political party. But he described them as something normal in election season.

“But what is more important is whether our supporters are still with us,” he said.