BANGKOK — Former Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva resigned as an MP Wednesday morning, a day after party executives voted to join the pro-junta coalition.
In the fallout of his party’s decision to support junta chairman Prayuth Chan-ocha’s bid for another term in office, Abhisit announced his resignation in a speech at the TOT Auditorium where parliament is scheduled to meet today to select a new prime minister.
“I cannot walk into [parliament] and vote against the party’s resolution,” Abhisit said. “This is a promise I made to the people of the whole country… It is thus necessary for me to resign as a member of parliament immediately.”
While campaigning for the March 24 election, Abhisit vowed that he would “definitely not” support Prayuth’s return to the prime minister’s seat, but his pledge was reversed by other party elders who met yesterday. In his speech, he also apologized to those who cast their ballots for him in the election two months ago.
The seat will now go to the next person in the Democrat’s party list.
The speech marked the end of Abhisit’s long career with the Democrat Party; he was first elected to office in 1992 at the age of 28, making him the youngest MP at the time. Abhisit also served as a Prime Minister from 2008 to 2011.
Four other Democrats also announced their departure including Abhisit’s nephew Parit Wacharasindhu, who leads the party’s youth wing known as the New Dems.
“I don’t have any other word to say besides ‘I am sorry,’” Parit wrote online.
Former Election Commissioner Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, who ran on the Democrat’s ticket in the election, also tendered his resignation, citing ideological differences.
“Thank you to the Democrat Party for giving me the chance to run in the election,” Somchai wrote. “But since our ideology differs, I would like to excuse myself by resigning as a party member.”
Speaking after the vote, new Democrat leader Jurin Laksana Laksanawisit said the party decided to join the pro-junta coalition on several conditions, such as pushing for an end to the junta’s absolute power and clearing the way for an elected government to take over.
“The ex-party leader’s stance that he announced during the campaign brought criticisms, but ultimately the party must uphold national interests above the party’s interest,” he said.
The new government must also lay a foundation for corruption-free politics and support the poor, Jurin said.
With the 54 MPs commanded by the Democrats on its side, the pro-junta coalition will likely sail to an easy victory when parliament convenes for the vote later today.
Prayuth is running for another term in office against a challenger from the anti-junta bloc, Future Forward leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit.