BANGKOK, July 4 (Xinhua) -- As tide has turned against the Democrats, the oldest political party has to swallow its painful loss in the July 3 general election, by conceding the decisive victory of its rival -- the opposition Pheu Thai Party.
Caretaker Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva admitted his party's defeat Sunday evening and on the next day he announced that he would step down as the party leader, the position which he assumed since 2005.
"When the party gains fewer voters and fewer seats in the House, I think a good leader needs to show spirit. Therefore, I decided to resign as the party leader today," Abhisit said Monday morning.
In the 2007 election, the Democrats won 170 seats from 480 while the Pheu Thai won 188. But this time his party only won 159 seats from the total 500 against 265 seats of its rival. The hand that once put him to power now unintentionally pulls him out of the chair.
Academic and former senator Jermsak Pinthong said Monday via his radio program that some people did not vote for the Democrats because they believe the party is backed by the establishment and military.
"Some Red-shirt supporters, Thida's group for instance, do not admire Thaksinomics (the economic set of policies of Thaksin) or agree with the corruption, but they ally with Thaksin in order to deal with the institutes," the well-known academic said.
The Democrat Party came to power in December 2008 via a parliamentary agreement rather than a fresh election after the then governing Thaksin's proxy party was dissolved by a court for electoral fraud.
His party's and his leadership's legitimacy has been questioned, especially by the red-shirted opposition protesters who believe the establishment and army were working behind.
Triumph of the Pheu Thai Party might have reflected overwhelming support of the working class and the rural poor to the party but at the same time it repeats the story of patronage system in the country.
The former senator suggested that rural people in the North and Northeast have been tightly bound to the system. The poor in those regions significantly benefited from populist policies implemented during Thaksin's era.
Consequently, they believe they need someone to reach them with all forms of help which could improve their lives substantially.
Even though the Democrats have tried to adopt the populist policies and put them on sale during the election campaigns, their mild populism could not win the heart of those people.
Jermsak said the Democrats could have won much more seats if Abhisit had dissolved the House of Representatives last year, or soon after the Red-shirt protests which cost the country's economy around 70 billion baht (2.12 billion U.S. dollars) and triggered resentment of people affected from the event.
From mid-March to mid-May in 2010, the anti-government Red- shirts backed by Thaksin and the opposition Pheu Thai staged a prolonged rally which eventually led to military crackdown. Some 91 people were killed, nearly 1,900 injured.
It is difficult not only for the working class and people in rural area, but also for the middle class not to connect economic recession at global level with the problems of hiking prices of products and food in the country.
Economic slowdown in Europe coupled with a financial crisis in Greek and natural disasters in Japan has adversely affected Thai economy. Food prices rocketing is a phenomenon worldwide but Thai people lack of comprehension.
"Common people don't understand and they always blame the government," the academic said.
When asked, a street vendor selling Thai-style popular salad whom she will vote for, she answered with anger: "I will not vote for the Democrats. You see everything is so expensive since they have become the government."
The achievement the Democrats have been proud of and trying to tell all Thais never reached them. The message Abhisit has repeated that his government has been excellent at increasing the country's international reserve fund from 7 billion U.S. dollars to 190 billion U.S. dollars has never been heard. It is too hard to digest.