After debate, Democrat members will decide on their next leader

Whatever the outcome of its ongoing leadership race, the Democrat Party can at least claim to have set a political precedent. 

The three candidates joined in a debate yesterday as part of the party’s primary election of its new leader.  They put forth their visions on how to lead the party into the upcoming general elections and how they want to transform the country if the Democrat Party is back in power again.

Both the primary election and the debate are unprecedented and the Democrats want them to set an example for other political parties to follow to ensure wider political participation and more transparency in election of their leadership.  Until yesterday, the Democrats, like other political parties, chose their leaders through nomination during its general assembly – which is seen more as a ritual as the decision-making power is rested with a handful of party bigwigs.

One crucial point that the three candidates addressed yesterday is whether the Democrat  will join the pro-junta camp or the opposite camp after the elections.  Abhisit Vejjajiva, the former party leader, said Thai people should have the right to more choices than to choose between dictatorship and  corrupt politicians.

He said the party would follow the liberal democracy ideology and it would form the next government if it commands enough votes in the parliament.  He said the decision in forming a government must be based on policies.  “We want to be in the government not for political gains, but because we want to solve problems for the people.”

Another candidate, Alongkorn Polabutr said if the Democrats emerge as the top winner in the elections, they would form their own government. He said he rejected the concept of an outsider to become prime minister, claiming that this would sow the seeds of national crisis.

Warong Dejkitvigrom said the Democrats would have the right to choose the people with whom they want to work with in case they win the election under four conditions: They must be serious against corruption; all must respect the rule of law and oppose misuse of power and all must be loyal to the Monarchy.

Regarding the 20-year National Strategy drafted by the Prayut government, Abhisit said that the strategy was irrelevant with circumstances and self-conflicting which would pose an obstacle to national administration. 

He hinted at a major overhaul of the strategy for public interest.

However, Warong and Alongkorn said the strategy needed to be amended where there are problems.

After the primary vote, Abhisit said the major task of the new party leader was to lead the party into the elections and to pull the country out of political polarization.

Throughout his 27-year political career as a Democrat, Abhisit claimed he had always fought to protect the party, admitting that the threat against the party still exists and there are some elements who want to use the party as a tool.

Warong said he wanted to make the party stronger, adding that he loves the party as much as the others.  Democrat party, he added, is the home of every Democrat.

Alongkorn, meanwhile, said he wanted to clean up the party.  If elected the party leader, he said he would demand all election candidates to sign letters of resignation in advance so that in case if any of them are involved in corruption, they can be fired instantly.

Democrat Party members will vote for their new leader on November 1-5 and the winner will be nominated for endorsement along with the new executive committee at the party’s general assembly on November 11.

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