BANGKOK — Democrat chairman Abhisit Vejjajiva said Wednesday night his party has yet to endorse his announcement that he will not support the junta leader for another term in office.
Just two weeks after the Democrat leader declared with much fanfare that he would not join hands with junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha when the parliament votes for a new prime minister, Abhisit reopened the possibility of an alliance with the junta.
Abhisit was speaking amid an open rebellion from one of his MP candidates, Thaworn Senniam, who said Abhisit acted alone by making his announcement without the consent of other party members.
“Everything has to be subject to the party’s ideology. Thaworn is right in saying it wasn’t party consensus,” Abhisit, who served as a premier from 2008 to 2011, said in a televised interview. “But I already said the party’s consensus would come later, because there has to be a meeting between MPs and party executives.”
Abhisit’s announcement of non-cooperation with Prayuth on March 11 brought a mix of praise from his supporters, doubts from critics and fury from those who’d counted him an ally.
One such detractor was Thaworn, a veteran politician running for a seat in Songkhla, who said in an online video that the party had yet to convene and vote on its stance toward Prayuth’s candidacy.
A former Abhisit mentor also accused him of looking for his own political gain instead of helping Gen. Prayuth thwart the influence of their shared archnemesis, former leader Thaksin Shinawatra.
“I’m not an ungrateful man, but today Mr. Abhisit is leading the Democrat Party into a disaster,” former Democrat deputy chairman Suthep Thaugsuban wrote online last night. “I have my rights to criticize and express my opinions.”
The Democrat Party is Thailand’s oldest and for over two decades has been a reliable second-place finisher in general elections. Its ranks are a diverse collection of ideologies, from hardline pro-establishment agitators to young moderates who support democratic institutions.
As many Democrat politicians have publicly supported Prayuth’s coup in 2014, analysts also raised concerns in recent weeks that the party is at risk of a major defection. Abhisit maintained such an outcome is unlikely.
Abhisit told Amarin TV he’s confident other party members will come around to his position.
“I don’t believe any party will dare reach a consensus contrary to its own ideology,” Abhisit said.