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Main Thai Opposition Party Divided over Running in Election

The Great Shift East in the Global Agenda: Abhisit Vejjajiva

Bangkok- Thailand’s main opposition Democrat Party reappointed former premier Abhisit Vejjajiva as its leader on Tuesday but members could not agree on whether to run in an early election or stick with street protesters who want to reform the political system. The protesters, backed by the Thai elite and Bangkok’s middle class, want to force through political reforms before the snap election called by Prime Minister YingluckShinawatra. Their aim is to eradicate the influence of ThaksinShinawatra, Yingluck’s brother and the power behind her government.

Democrat lawmakers resigned from parliament this month to join the street protests led by SuthepThaugsuban, a deputy prime minister under Abhisit until 2011. Some agree with his call for reforms to be implemented before another election can be held. But others believe their party, Thailand’s oldest, should respect the democratic process and take part in the election, called for February 2.

“There will be no conclusion today as to whether the Democrat Party will run,” Abhisit told reporters as the two-day meeting was drawing to an end. “We are tired enough from meeting today on other matters.”The Democrats must decide by December 27 if they want to register for the vote.

“Abhisit’s dilemma is he could be in big trouble with the protesters if he does go ahead with elections as most protesters are from his constituency,” said political analyst KanYuenyong at the Siam Intelligence Unit think-tank. “Abhisit is in a tough position because his inclination would be to boycott no matter what, as his party is bound to lose the election. Others in his party want to restructure the Democrats and feel duty-bound to run on February 2,” Kan said. “There is a power struggle going on and Abhisit, who has been the party’s poster boy for so long, is trying to exert control over a fractured Democrat Party.” (Reuters)

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