by Surasak Tumcharoen
BANGKOK, Feb. 23 (Xinhua) -- The Democrat Party, Thailand's oldest party currently headed by former Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, could see drastic changes in its leadership structure if its candidate fails to win the upcoming election for Bangkok Governor.
The gubernatorial race in the Thai capital, scheduled for March 3, is between Governor M.R. Sukhumbhand Boripatra of the opposition Democrat Party and archrival candidate Pongsapat Pongcharoen of the ruling Puea Thai Party.
Speculations among the party's rank and file are that Abhisit could lose his position as leader of the party if the Democrat candidate is defeated.
On the other hand, there would almost certainly be no change in the Puea Thai Party, headed by Lady Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, if Pongsapat, a retired police general, will win or lose in the race.
Some Democrat MPs, including former Cabinet members, have in fact objected to the naming of M.R. Sukhumbhand as the party's candidate for reelection as Bangkok governor and they have not been active in the campaign.
"There are dozens of Democrat MPs representing varied constituencies of Bangkok, but few have practically come out in support of M.R. Sukhumbhand's campaign so far...Bangkok councilors or district councilors of the party have not done much to help, either," said one Democrat MP.
The naming of M.R. Sukhumbhand as Democrat candidate for Bangkok governor had disappointed many Democrats, including the party's secretary general Chalermchai Sri-on, who favored former finance minister Korn Jatikavanich to be the party's gubernatorial candidate.
Former Democrat Party leader Pichai Rattakul bluntly said that Abhisit should take full responsibility by stepping down as leader of the Democrat Party if M.R. Sukhumbhand eventually fails to get re-elected.
Pichai blamed the Democrat party leadership for failing to convince the party's prominent figures, such as former prime minister Chuan Leekpai, former deputy prime minister Banyat Bantattan and himself, in joining the campaign for Sukhumbhand.
Democrat MP Kovit Tarana expressed concerns over possibility that a number of Bangkok residents might vote for an independent candidate, Seripisuth Temiyavej, a former police chief, who is said to be popular in the inner parts of the capital.
"Those who may have been reluctant or undecided to vote either for M.R. Sukhumbhand or Pongsapat might possibly find themselves picking Seripisuth instead. He might probably steal as many as 200, 000 votes from our candidate," Tarana said.
Puea Thai MP Vicharn Meanchainand, a former cabinet minister, said that voter turnout would be less than 60 percent of the total of 4.3 million eligible voters and most of the voters would vote for the party rather than for the individual candidates.
Pongsapat has emphatically declared that if elected, he would certainly work in harmony with Yingluck's government.