Insiders say Dems must change

It's ironic that despite being the oldest political party in the country, with more than 2.8 million members and a well-established network of 118 branches, the Democrats have failed to win an election in the past 21 years.

Although recognised as an "institution" of Thai politics, critics point to its conservative and bureaucratic working style as one of the reasons why the party has failed to lead at the polls.

In April this year, right after the Democrats celebrated their 67th anniversary, former deputy leader Alongkorn Ponlaboot urged his party to reform or risk being irrelevant not just to voters but the public at large.

"Some people in the party may think we have lost in elections because we didn't have as much money as our rivals," Mr Alongkorn said.

"There are people, myself included, who believe that we lost because we did not have enough vision and have failed to catch up with people's changing needs and expectations."

Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva acknowledged the need for his party to undergo reform. He earlier said the main platform for the Democrats' "Operation Change" would be in opening up the party so people outside can have a say in how it will reshape itself as it moves forward.

The party's expanded executive board _ comprising 35 people instead of 19 as in the past _ is the most visible change the party has made.

That the new board is comprised wholly of old faces _ all of them are the party's veteran politicians with ties to the existing leadership _ raises the question of whether it will be able to usher in change.

The new executives include such familiar names as Sirichoke Sopha, Chamni Sakdiset, Thepthai Senpong and Khunying Kalaya Sophonpanich.

Kiat Sitheeamorn, one of the party's reform committee members, and a deputy leader, asked members for their input.

"The comments came in and they were largely focused on the party not being open, and slow to move," Mr Kiat said.

"We used to have a 19-member executive board. Deputy party leaders were elected by the assembly. They were charismatic and capable but were not necessarily selected by the party leader.

"Rather, they were people whom party branches and MPs had chosen," he said in an interview with the Bangkok Post.

The question was how much, if at all, the deputies were able to work with the party leader who did not pick them. Quite often, the working efficiency between them was damaged.

"That prompted a change whereby the party leader must have his own team who answers to him. That would increase efficiency and forge teamwork spirit," Mr Kiat said.

As for the deputy leaders in the regions who were not suited to the task, this problem has been addressed, he said.

For example, the deputy for the Northeast was working well in some provinces, although he must ensure political activities are conducted consistently, not only during elections.

To address this, the party set up a system of provincial clusters of party executives with the heads being equivalent to deputy party leaders. The cluster heads are not necessarily elected at the party assembly.

"The party leaders and secretary-general will work proactively and fully in different constituencies," Mr Kiat said.

"They reserve the right to name the provincial cluster heads who are supposed to be suitable, capable and well connected.

"The heads will supervise the party branches, nominate the MP candidates, and oversee activities before and after the elections.

"They must also determine how many MP candidates should stand in the region and how many of them have a chance to win. Previously, these were the responsibilities of the regional deputy leaders.

"But they could not adequately supervise the [vast] regions."

Asked whether the party can meet budget requests or demands from branches, Mr Kiat said: "I've made an assessment before and found some branches were doing well and others were not, depending on whether the party had MPs in the respective localities.

"If we had a standing MP, the branches were strong. This is where we must improve. Under the new structure, the permanent staff in charge of developing each branch will work alongside the provincial cluster, which is something unprecedented. Once the Election Commission endorses the party's executive board appointment, the provincial cluster heads can be selected right away."

Share your thoughts

Discussion 1 : 23/12/2013 at 10:14 AM
Rather than the "leader" choosing his executive, which is totally top-down control, a continuation of the current losing situation, perhaps if the elected executive were to choose the leader, meaning a bottom-up control, they'd have a better chance of involving the people who matter - voters!
Discussion 2 : 23/12/2013 at 09:29 AM
Be careful what you write here. Non of the leaders have been convicted of murder , all are innocent until proven guilty by the court of law in Thailand.
Discussion 3 : 23/12/2013 at 09:19 AM
48.41 % is very good, but it is not 51 %. 35.15 % is very good too, but not good enough. Acting like 99% is very bad.
Discussion 4 : 23/12/2013 at 03:22 AM
"There are people, myself included, who believe that we lost because we did not have enough vision and have failed to catch up with people's changing needs and expectations." Yes! As long as you think that vote-buying explain the situation you will stay losers! At the last election, PTP had 4.5 million more voters than DP. Do you really think that they are all bought? Stop to try to get the power by coup or legal “scam”, respect the democratic rules, respect all the voters, offer a project taking in account all the people including poor workers and farmers, and may be choice new figures, and you will win the next election democratically!
Discussion 5 : 23/12/2013 at 03:14 AM
What is the point of going to the poll when the result already knew who will win. A murderer can not win election but they can stop their opponent for now winning the election either so nobody will win this time.
Discussion 6 : 23/12/2013 at 02:36 AM
The DP will lost for a few more decades as long as they have murderers as their leaders and majority of rural poor suffer the hatred from the central region which will never be easy to erase. It is time to move on without the DP and let them set back and think of new solution to their party Money can not buy people like you mentioned but do something good to the people will buy their hearts without money which one person already did that and you should know and learn from him or else you will lost forever.

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