The Economist has produced an article on the political travails of the royalist Democrat Party. It begins with a statement of fact: “For a mainstream political party comprising men and women who think of themselves as the natural rulers of Thailand, the Democrat Party (DP) has a truly terrible election record.” It would be difficult to argue with that.
The times the Democrat Party has headed a vote is has won a small percentage of the vote cast: 1996 (when it won the highest number of votes at about 32%, yet fewer seats than the next party), September 1992 (with 21% of votes ), 1986 (with about 22%), 1976 (25%), and 1975 (17%).
The Economist points out that “founded in 1946 as a conservative, royalist party in a country that reveres the monarchy. Yet despite its advantages of history, organisation and money, it has never won an outright majority in parliament.” That is only partly correct. When the party was founded, it was to bolster the political fortunes of a monarchy that had declined. The foundation of the party was as a vehicle to promote a politically lame monarchy. Since 2005, the party has attempted to campaign as the party of the palace, but remains unsuccessful, so the newspaper’s claim is valid for recent years. Indeed, “since 2001 the DP has lost four elections in a row, often by wide margins, to parties led or controlled by a billionaire businessman, Thaksin Shinawatra.”
It is also correct in noting that “Abhisit Vejjajiva, a well-mannered old Etonian, managed to become prime minister from 2008 to 2011, but only as a result of some shady back-room dealings with other minor parties after Mr Thaksin was ousted in a coup in 2006.” They mean a military-tycoon-palace cabal hoisted Abhisit to power on the back of a judicial decision that was hastily cobbled together in order to keep the popularly-elected government out.
The Economist points out that the failure of the Democrat Party matters:
That the DP has failed to channel legitimate political sentiments and policies into election-winning platforms has all too often encouraged conservative and royalist activists (such as the Yellow Shirts) to bring central Bangkok to a halt or occupy the capital’s main airport instead.
Of course, the Democrat Party and its current leadership have encouraged these acts and are complicit in them. PPT has sometimes referred to the PADocrats or DemoPAD Party.
The story then gets a little weird, largely because it chooses to accept the bleating of “Korn Chatikavanij, a former finance minister under Mr Abhisit, also educated at an English boarding school” as fact.
Korn falaciously claims that at “the last election the PT had a huge advantage in media coverage, having its own radio stations and a satellite-television channel, Asia Update.” This is an invention. Yes, the Puea Thai Party had these things. However, Abhisit and Korn were at the head of a government that had closed down a huge number of opposition media outlets. Abhisit’s government ran the most comprehensive campaign of censorship since 1976. It also locked up hundreds of red shirts, including numerous labor activists, editors and so on. In addition, the Democrat Party had the vast resources of the state’s media behind it and the active campaign support of the military. Like many of the lazy elite that populates the Democrat Party, Korn is simply making fallacious excuses for their failures of capacity, will and appeal.
Lacking any ideas of its own and now without the same easy access to the state and military media, the Democrat Party has set up a satellite TV channel, Blue Sky. It is directly linked with the party and hence constitutionally dubious, although we can’t see the biased Constitutional Court doing anything about that.
Essentially, though, the problem for the Democrat Party is that its leadership is, apart from being stuck with a 1946-style royalist ideology, it is now associated in the minds of the voting public with the massacre of political opponents. Until it can shed the tainted, lazy and pompous elite figures that dominate it and develop policies that are more mainstream, it remains doomed and dependent on the failures of others in government or the military or palace to haul it into the government’s seats.