POLITICS / ELECTION RESULTS
165 seats a milestone for us, say Democrats
Party attributes gains to two years' hard work
Despite failing to win enough seats in last month's polls to lead the forming of a coalition government, Democrat party deputy leader Alongkorn Polabutr said that with its biggest win ever of 165 seats, the party had set itself new targets for future growth.
''It is a new milestone for the party, and we will use factors leading to this success as a model to continue expanding our support nationwide,'' he said.
The Democrats' large gains in certain Central Plains provinces and Bangkok were ''phenomenal'', and were the results of the party's hard work over the past two years, he said.
Even though the Democrats came a distant second to the People Power party (PPP) in the constituency votes, the vote was split almost 50-50 in the proportional representation poll, with the Democrats winning 33 seats and PPP 34.
The party's massive gain in the party-list vote reflected a transition to rational politics from emotional voting, he said.
''We evaluated that the increasing votes we gained were the fruits of the popularity of the party and its leader [Abhisit Vejjajiva],'' he said.
The party's growing popularity was clearly seen in certain provinces, such as Phetchaburi and Chon Buri, where Democrat candidates campaigned as a team and swept all the seats, he said.
''The party gave high priority for these areas, fielding quality candidates and proactively campaigning hard ahead of the election. This is because we spotted a need for a change of people there,'' Mr Alongkorn said.
However, not everyone agrees with the deputy Democrat leader's evaluation of the election results.
Some observers have said the Democrats gains were the results of strategic voting by people who did not want PPP to win, due to their opposition to deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The disbanding of the immensely successful Thai Rak Thai party after the 2006 coup led to its key members being banned from politics and caused the party to split up into a number of factions, splitting former TRT voters, which may have helped the Democrats gain more seats, some observers said.
The Democrats failure to significantly increase its support in rural areas is also a concern for the party, say observers. Its support remains largely concentrated in urban centres. In Bangkok, the Democrats increased its margin to 27 seats from four seats in the previous election
Mr Alongkorn refutes these arguments, saying the party's gains are comparable among both urban and rural voters.
But despite his claims, the party's key successes still only came in the Central Plains and Bangkok. The Democrats so far have been unable to significantly increase support in the North and Northeast, where the majority of voters appear to remain loyal to Mr Thaksin and other former TRT MPs.
Mr Alongkorn said the Democrat party would expand its support bases by applying the strategies that brought about the success stories in the Central Plains.
''We aim to establish over 300 new party branches nationwide, and then educate our members on campaigning,'' he said. ''We will build up stronger support in terms of both volume and quality.''