Published 9th May, 2011
The Democrat Party is Thailand’s oldest political party having been founded on 6th April 1946. All elections prior to 1957 were contested as independents, but the Democrat Party contested the first election where political parties were permitted in February 1957.
In the 1975, 1976, 1986 and September 1992 general elections the Democrats were the largest party. In March 1992 they dropped to fifth but in every other election they have come consistently second with three occasions (1969, 1983 and 1988 when they came third). So they have consistently been involved in government or as the largest opposition party since the 1950s.
In 1986 the Democrats achieved a huge victory, taking 100 of the 347 seats, but the party split in 1988 and suffered the consequent fall in support, dropping to 48 seats in 1988 and 44 seats in March 1992.
The Democrat Party has traditionally been a party of the south, with the capital, Bangkok its stronghold. The party has always appealed to the educated middle and upper classes in sharp contrast to the Pheu Thai party and its predecessors who take their support from northern farmers and workers.
On 6th March 2005 Abhisit Vejjajiva was elected the new party leader. In 2006 opposition grew against the then Thai Rak Thai (TRT) government and the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) (often referred to as the Yellow shirts) was formed and began a series of protests against the government. On 24th February the then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra dissolved the House of Representatives, but Abhisit Vejjajiva said that he backed the PAD and favoured a royally appointed government as allowed for under the constitution. He was denounced by Shinawatra as anti-democratic and the elections were called. The Democrat party decided to boycott the elections, the first time they had done so since their inception.
Subsequently there was a military coup which Abhisit denounced. In 2007 when the military junta called fresh democratic elections the Democrats fought and came second with 165 seats to the successor of the TRT, the People’s Power Party (PPP).
The PPP went on to form a coalition government but was dissolved in 2008 for electoral fraud. A number of the coalition parties switched to the Democrats enabling them to form a new coalition government in the December and Abhisit Vejjajiva became the new prime minister.
The Democrat Party describes its ideology as constitutional monarchism and conservative liberalism. They are members of Liberal International and Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats.