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 time when the Party was building its foundation. The period was notable for the dominant role of the military in politics; therefore, insofar as the popular aspiration for democracy was concerned, the political atmosphere of this period was bleak. Democracy had not firmly taken root, and political activities were very limited. During the first half of this 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 of the period when the country was under military dictatorship. Important political milestones of the Party during this period were as follows:
1946 - Acting as the opposition party to the government of Mr. Pridi Phanomyong.
1947 – Invited the military government as a coalition member.
1948 - Winning the general election and forming a single-party government with Major Khuang Apaiwong as the Prime Minister, but later forced to resign by the military in the same year.
1952 – As a result of an extensive election fraud throughout the nation, the party decided to withdraw all candidates prior to the casing of ballot.
1958-1967 - Party being forced to suspend all political activities as a result of the imposition of a ban on all political activities and the abolition of political party law by Field Marshall Sarit Thanarat 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 undergo reform following political isolation in the earlier period. Important political milestones of the Party in during this time were as follows:
1971 - Acting as an opposition party to the government of Field Marshall Sarit Thanarat.
1975 - Democrat Party won the majority of seats in the general election, but failed in its attempt to form a 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 the new government’s assumption of power, a group of high-ranking military commanders who called themselves "National Administrative Reform Council (NARC)" took advantage of a political incident which occurred at Thammasart University on October 6 by using it as a pretext to seize power from the democratically elected government. The government that came to power after 1976 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.
By this time, however, 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 to allow for party restructuring. 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 national politics as a partner in coalition government as well as in the opposition. Important political mile-stones of the Party were as follows:
1979 - Acting as an opposition party to the government led by General Kriengsak Chamanan.
1980 – Serving as a member in the coalition government of General Prem Tinsulanond and remaining in the various subsequent governments led by General Prem Tinsulanond – a period that lasted for 8 years.
1988 - Winning only a small number of parliamentary seats in the general election but 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 (1991-2001) – Leading Party of Coalition Government and Opposition
In the early 1991, Mr. Bhichai Rattakul resigned from his post as the party leader in order to pave the way for Mr. Chuan Leekpai, a veteran M.P. for 22 years from the south, to take the helm of the Party. He was the fifth party leader and has since remained popular among the 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 of functioning as a buffet cabinet and seized power. The NPRC invited Mr. Anand Panyarachoon, a prominent retired diplomat to become 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 the 1990's, the Democrat Party served two terms of government, i.e., between 1992-1995 and 1997-2000. During this period, the roles of the Party, particularly in 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 parliamentary dissolution after one coalition party withdrew from the coalition. A new election was called and the Chart Thai Party won the most seats in parliament. Mr. Banharn Silapa-archa, the leader of the Chart Thai Party became Prime Minister and the Democrat Party was in the opposition.
1996 – The Banharn Administration lasted for only one year before he dissolved the parliament. The New Aspiration Party won the highest number of 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 Prime Minister.
1997 - Chavalit's Administration was faced with a major international financial crisis, which forced the government to devalue the baht. This so-called “Tom Yum Kung” crisis consequently caused many businesses, large and small, 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 – 2001: In 1997, the Thai political scene experienced a transformation, some can even say, a metamorphosis. A new constitution was drafted, and, for the first time during the drafting period the opinions of the Thai general public were sought before it was eventually promulgated. Thus, the constitution of 1997 was, and is, informally known as “the people’s constitution”. Before this constitution, Thailand had been best known for its frequent changes in leadership and regular military coups that interrupted the country’s economic and political stability. The constitution was designed to redress this situation by providing the executive branch with more authority of government, not to mention allowing the people more opportunities to contribute to the governing of the country. But by doing so, the most crucial consequence directly associated from this constitution was the increase in the Prime Minister’s powers and authority.
5th Period (2001 – present) – Contending parliamentary dictatorship and resisting the abuse of power for personal interests
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 were fueled, amplified and advertised through slick marketing campaigns. In addition to the new 1997 people’s constitution, the novelty of Thaksin and his new party literally changed the country’s political scene. In fact, it was the first time in recent Thai political history that one party controlled an absolute majority in the House of Representatives. This was consolidated further by the merger 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 legitimate checks and balances to the power of the government.
Progressing toward its 57th anniversary 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, the search for a new party leader to guide the party into the new Millennium began.
Through a tight race, Banyat Bantadtan, then a deputy-party leader, 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 was 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 500 in 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 political atmosphere since 2001.
In 2005, the government under the leadership of Thaksin Shinawatra intentionally interfered in other entities, such as the Senate, the media, the independent institutions, and the judiciary, to make sure that they were all in the direction the government preferred. Especially for the judiciary, the government targeted at the Constitutional Court that played a crucial role in examining Thaksin’s cases.
Even though, the Democrat Party was an opposition party, it never neglected the roles and responsibility in investigating the government. On February 24, 2006, Thaksin Shinawatra dissolved the parliament to escape from the censure debate on the selling the Shin Corporation’s shares to the Temasek Holding of Singapore, for which the motion had been raised by the Democrat Party. As a consequence, the next national election was held on April 2 of the same year.
The political condition of Thailand at the time was full of conflicts. The society was separated into several political groups. During the election in 2005, corruption was clearly seen. Several political parties, including the Democrat Party, made a major decision to boycott the election in 2006.
The situation, which had become enormously out of control, led to the coup d'etat led by General Sonthi Boonyaratglin on September 19, 2006. Thaksin Sinawatra’s position as the Prime Minister had been terminated. He was sentenced to two years' imprisonment on a corruption charge. As a consequence, he fled the country to avoid jail.
The care-taking government was setup and General Surayud Chulanont was the Prime Minister for more than one year. The general election was set in December 23, 2007. Thai Rak Thai Party that had been dissolved by the Constitutional Court re-emerged under a new name -- People Power Party. The new party, but with old people, succeed in the election. The People Power Party had 232 members in the House of Representative, while the Democrat Party won 164 seats. However, the government was clearly known to represent the old power of Thai Rak Thai. Thus, large numbers of people stood out against the government, known as the People's Alliance for Democracy (PAD). Later, the two Prime Ministers from People Power Party lost their office, and the party was penalized again for an election fraud.
Political instability caused violence and conflict within the nation. Corruption and unethical actions perpetrated by the government once again created political crisis in the country. As consequence of the crisis, the country was not able to move forward. The coalition parties within the cabinet decided to elect the new Prime Minister. Abhisit Vejjajiva, the leader of the Democrat Party, was voted by the majority of the House of Representatives to be the new Prime Minister on December 17, 2008. After serving as an opposition party in the parliament for 8 years, the Democrat Party became the government once again in order to lead nation through all kinds of crisis. The party was attempting to lead the country back to balance, and solve the conflict within the nation.
On May 9, 2011, Prime Minisiter Abhisit Vejjajiva dissolved the parliament which led to the general election on July 3rd, 2011. As the result of the election, Democrat party gained 44 seats from party list system, and 115 seats from the constituency system. In total, the party earned 160 seats in the parliament.
The Democrat Party will always continue to firmly adhere to the principles of democracy, freedom, transparency, and public participation. These principles have guided the party for the past 66 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 - july 20, 2011|
|15.||Mr.Chalermchai Sri-On||September 2, 2011 - Present|
จำนวน ส.ส.พรรคประชาธิปัตย์ ตั้งแต่ พ.ศ.2500-2554
|26 ก.พ. 2500||4||1||6||17||12||-||30||160|
|15 ธ.ค. 2500||11||4||8||13||3||-||39||159|
|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.พ. 2554||23||25||50||13||4||44||160||525|
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