The Democrat Party was established in April 1946. It is one of the political parties with the longest-standing history in Southeast Asia. Currently, the Democrat Party has almost three millions members and 177 branches (as of December 31, 2011) throughout every region of Thailand. Since its inception, the party has had all together seven leaders, and four of them have become Prime Minister, namely Major Khuang Aphaiwong, M.R. Seni Pramoj, Mr. Chuan Leekpai, and Mr. Abhisit Vejjajiva.
For many decades, the Democrat Party has gone through several strategic political events, but it has been able to overcome them by firmly adhering to the democratic system. The history of the Party can be divided into five periods, including:
Period 1 (1946-1967) – Party Building, Pro-Democracy and Anti-Dictatorship
Period 2 (1968-1979) – Party Rehabilitation and Democracy Promotion
Period 3 (1979-1990) – Policy Improvement and Participation in National Administration
Period 4 (1991-2001) – Leading Party of Coalition Government and Opposition.
Period 5 (2001-2011) – Contending parliamentary dictatorship and resisting the abuse of power for personal interests.
1st Period (1946-1967)
Party Building, Pro-Democracy and Anti-Dictatorship.
This period was the founding and building period for the party. The political atmosphere during this period was bleak due to the dominance of the military. Democracy was not legitimized and political activities were very limited. During the first half of the period, the Democrat Party was active in the political arena, both as government and opposition in the parliament. However, the party was forced to suspend political activities during the second half due to military dictatorship. Important political milestones of the party during this period were as follows:
- 1946 - Acted as opposition party to the government of Mr. Pridi Phanomyong.
- 1947 - Was invited, and joined, as a coalition member in the military government.
- 1948 - Won the national election and formed the single-party government with Major Khuang Apaiwong as the prime minister, but later forced to resign by the military in the same year.
- 1952 - Due to an extensive election fraud throughout the nation, the party decided to withdraw all candidates prior to the casing of ballot.
- 1958-1967 Party had to suspend all political activities as a result of Field Marshall Sarit Thanarat banned all political parties and abolished all laws on political parties following his Coup d'etat.
2nd Period (1968-1979)
Party Rehabilitation and Democracy Promotion
Upon the promulgation of the new constitution in 1968, M.R. Seni Pramoj, one of the party founding members, was elected as the second leader of the party. During this period the party had to rebuild the party due to a long break in politics during in the past decade. Important political milestones of the party in this period were as follows:
- 1971 - Acted as opposition party to the government of Field Marshall Sarit Thanarat.
- 1975 - Democrat Party won the majority of seats in the election, but failed in its attempt to form the coalition government.
- 1976 - When a new election was held, the Democrat Party won the highest number of MPs in its history and successfully formed the government. Within a few months of administration, a group of high-ranking military commanders called themselves "National Administrative Reform Council (NARC)" used a political incident which occurred at Thammasart University on October 6 to seize power from the democratically elected government. For three years after that, the government was appointed and supported by the NARC.
- 1979 - A new general election was called but the party did not perform well. The party leader, M.R. Seni Pramoj, resigned to demonstrate his responsibility.
During this period, M.R. Seni Pramoj, the party leader, had laid a firm foundation for the party system by adopting an internationally accepted standard of public administration and expanded party branches throughout the country.
3rd Period (1979-1990)
Policy Improvement and Participation in National Administration.
Colonel Thanat Kormantr, a prominent career diplomat and former Foreign Minister in the previous governments was elected as the third party leader on May 26, 1979. However in 1982, only three years later, he offered his resignation in 1982 to allow for party restructure. Mr. Bhichai Rattakul, a successful businessman and veteran M.P. of the party was elected as the fourth party leader on April 3, 1982. During this period, the Democrat Party performed significant roles in the national politics in the coalition government as well as in the opposition. Important political mile- stones of the party were as follows:
- 1979 - Acted as opposition party to the government led by General Kriengsak Chamanan.
- 1980 - Was a member in the coalition government of General Prem Tinsulanond and remained throughout the various government led by General Prem Tinsulanond that lasted for 8 years.
- 1988 - Won only a small number of parliamentary seats in the national election but was invited to join the coalition government of Chart Thai Party - under the premiership of General Chartchai Choonhawan.
- 1990 - Democrat Party refused to rejoin the government of General Chartchai after his resignation in order to form a new government.
4th Period (1991-Present)
Leading Party of Coalition Government and Opposition.
In the early 1991, Mr. Bhichai Rattakul resigned from the post of party leader in order to pave the way for Mr. Chuan Leekpai, a veteran M.P. for 22 years from the south, to assume the helm of the party. He is the fifth party leader and remains popular among public.
In February 1991 another political incident caused the collapse of the democratic government of General Chartchai. A group of high-ranking military officers who called themselves the National Peace Restoration Council (NPRC) accused the Chartchai Administration as the buffet cabinet and seized power. The NPRC invited Mr. Anand Panyarachoon, a prominent retired diplomat to become the prime minister in a care-taking government for one year and to hold a new general election in 1992. In this election, the Democrat Party won the highest number of parliamentary seats and successfully formed the coalition government under the party leadership of Mr. Chuan Leekpai.
During 1990's, the Democrat Party had served two terms of government i.e. between 1992-1995 and 1997-2000. During this period, the roles of the party, particularly on the government, were significant and can be summarized as follows:
1992- Mr. Chuan Leekpai became the 21st Prime Minister of Thailand and led the coalition government.
1995 - Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai called for the parliamentary dissolution after one coalition party withdrew from the coalition. A new election was called and the Chart Thai Party won the most seats of M.P. Mr. Banharn Silapa-archa, the leader of the party became the prime minister and the Democrat Party became the opposition.
1996 - Banharn Administration lasted for only one year and dissolved the parliament. The New Aspiration Party won the most seats (125) in the new general election whereas the Democrat Party won the second highest number with 123 seats. General Chavalit Yongchaiyut, the leader as The New Aspiration Party became the prime minister.
1997 - During Chavalit's Administration the global economic crisis speeded throughout the world and Thailand was no exception. The government caused the devaluation of baht and, consequently, caused businesses throughout the nation to go bankrupt Prime Minister Chavalit was forced by the people to resign. The Democrat Party was given the chance to form a new government.
1997 – Present: In 1997, the Thai political scene experienced a transformation, some can even say, a metamorphosis. There was a drafting of a new constitution, a constitution that for the first time, sought the opinions f the Thai general public before drafting; thus, the constitution of 1997 was, and is, informally known as “the peoples’ constitution”. Before this constitution, Thailand was best known for its frequent changes in leadership and regular military coups that interrupted the countries economic and political stability. The constitution has attempted to address this situation by providing more authority into the executive branch of government, not to mention allowing the people more opportunities to contribute in the governing system. But by doing so, the most crucial consequence directly associated from this constitution has been the increase in the Prime Ministers powers and authority, because the constitution separated the executive and the legislative branches from one another.
After the February 2001 election, Thailand saw a new government led by Thaksin Shinawatra, the leader of the newly founded Thai Rak Thai party. As one of the country’s riches businessmen turned politician, Thaksin funded a new breed of politics; populist policies fueled amplified and advertised through slick marketing campaigns. In addition to the new 1997’s people-constitution, the novelty of Thaksin and his new party have literally changed the country’s political scene. In fact, it was the first time in Thai history that one party controlled an absolute majority in the House of Representatives; this was consolidated further by the merging of other smaller political parties. During this period, the Democrat Party was virtually the only opposition party in the Parliament willing and able, to perform and provide a legitimate check and balance to the power of the government.
Progressing toward its’ 57th year of existence in 2003, the Democrat Party faced a major overhaul when Chuan Leekpai, the legendary two-term former Prime Minister, and Party Leader since 1991, completed his fourth term of leadership in 2003; thus, beginning the search for a new party leader to guide the party into the new Millennium.
Through a tight race, Banyat Bantadtan, then a deputy became the next elected Democrat Party leader. Banyat Bantadtan was a veteran politician and held several key ministerial positions. Not only did he serve as a senior advisor during Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai’s premiership but also served as Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister. Not long after assuming leadership of the party, the 2005 general election took place. The heavily funded populist campaign of Thai Rak Thai carried over into the new election and handed them a landslide victory for the second time. In fact, this election was historic because it allowed Thai Rak Thai to form a single majority government winning 377 seats out of a 500 member parliament. In response to this, Banyat Bantadtan accepted the defeat and resigned as the party leader.
Abhisit Vejjajiva was elected the new Democrat Party leader in March 2005. The popular and charismatic new party leader was elected to the lower House of Representatives at the age of 27 in 1995 and has served in many political important positions since, such as: Democrat Party spokesman, Government spokesman, Deputy Secretary to the Prime Minister for Political Affairs, and Minister Attached to the Prime Minister’s Office.
Under the guidance of Abhisit and the Executive Committee, the Democrat Party is prepared to provide the Thai public with a viable, responsible political alternative to the money-fueled political environment permeating the Thai atmosphere since 2001. The Democrat Party will always continue to stand on the principles of democracy, freedom, transparency, and public participation. These principles have guided the party for the past 60 years, and these principles will continue to guide us for many years and generations to come.
|Colonel Khuang Aphaiwong
|M.R. Seni Pramoj
|Major Thanat Kormantr
|1.||M.R.Kukrit Pramoj||April 6, 1946 - Setember 16, 1948|
|2.||Mr.Thep Chotinuchit||September 17, 1948 - Junne 25, 1949|
|3.||Mr.Chaovalit Aphaiwong||June 1949 - November 29,1951|
|4.||Mr.Yai Svittachart||September 30, 1955 - October 20, 1958|
|5.||Mr.Thammanoon Thienguern||September 26, 1970 - October 6, 1975|
|6.||Mr.Damrong Lutthipipat||November 13, 1975 - October 6, 1978|
|7.||Mr.Chalermpun Srivikorn||February 3, 1979 - May 26, 1979|
|8.||Mr.Marut Bunnag||May 26, 1979 - April 3, 1982|
|9.||Mr.Lek Na Na||April 3, 1982 - April 5, 1986|
|10.||Mr.Veera Musikaphong||April 5, 1986 - January 10, 1987|
|11.||Major General Sanan Kajornprasart||January 10, 1987 - August 10, 2000|
|12.||Mr.Anant Anantakul||September 17, 2000 - May 6, 2003|
|13.||Mr.Pradit Phataraprasit||May 6, 2003 - February 10, 2005|
|14.||Mr.Suthep Thuagsuban||March 5, 2005 - Present|
|26 ก.พ. 2500||4||1||6||17||12||-||30||160|
|15 ธ.ค. 2500||11||4||8||13||3||-||39||160|
|30 ม.ค. 2501||12||-||-||-||1||-||13||26|
|10 ก.พ. 2512||21||4||9||13||8||-||55||219|
|26 ม.ค. 2518||23||12||15||17||5||-||72||269|
|4 เม.ย. 2519||28||17||29||15||24||-||114||279|
|22 เม.ย. 2522||1||3||15||7||9||-||35||301|
|18 เม.ย. 2526||8||2||25||8||13||-||56||324|
|27 ก.ค. 2529||16||10||36||10||28||-||100||347|
|22 มี.ค. 2535||1||-||26||5||12||-||44||360|
|13 ก.ย. 2535||9||9||36||8||17||-||79||360|
|2 ก.ค. 2538||7||7||46||12||14||-||86||391|
|17 พ.ย. 2539||29||14||47||21||12||-||123||393|
|6 ม.ค. 2544||9||18||48||18||5||32||130||500|
|6 ก.พ. 2548||4||7||52||5||2||26||96||500|
|23 ธ.ค. 2550||27||35||49||15||5||33||164||480|
|3 ก.ค. 2554||23||25||50||13||4||44||160||500|
หมายเหตุ การเลือกตั้ง ส.ส.วันที่ 6 ม.ค.44 และวันที่ 6 ก.พ.48 มี ส.ส. 2 ประเภท คือ
- แบบบัญชีรายชื่อ ซึ่งการเลือกตั้งเมื่อวันที่ 6 ม.ค.44 ได้รับเลือกตั้ง 31 คน และเพิ่มอีก 1 คน โดยการย้ายเข้าสังกัดพรรค เมื่อวันที่ 29 เม.ย.45 รวม 32 คน
- วันที่ 2 เม.ย. 2549 พรรคประชาธิปัตย์ไม่ได้ส่ง ส.ส. ลงสมัครในการเลือกตั้ง จากนั้นมีการเลือกตั้งปรากฏว่าศาลรัฐธรรมนูญสั่งให้เป็นโมฆะ และมีเหตุให้ยุบพรรคไทยรักไทย