Will pm divide trt... or the country?
Thaksin's return will revive PAD; his absence could lead to factional warfare
While Thai Rak Thai Party members are keeping their fingers crossed that the country's top three courts will not cancel the April 2 election, the party's major concern is whether it can present Thaksin Shinawatra as its choice for prime minister if another election is held.
Since last week, key party members have argued Thaksin had the right to come back as premier if the courts call for fresh elections.
They claim that Thaksin's pledge not to take the job applied only to the April election but if that poll was abandoned, the party leader's "holiday" could come to an end.
Yesterday, however, those key party members appeared to back away from their commitment to secure Thaksin's return, saying it was up to him to decide if he really wanted to join the race.
The retreat came after evidence suggested the public oppose Thaksin's return. The Democrat Party, the People's Alliance for Democracy and outgoing senators warned that the Kingdom could suffer a more intense round of civil unrest if Thaksin returned.
Also, an Abac poll yesterday showed 44.4 per cent of respondents thought the ruling party should find another leader to fight for prime ministerial office while 42.7 per cent wanted Thaksin to soldier on.
Obviously, Thai Rak Thai is in a dilemma about the future of its leader if the judges call for fresh elections.
What will happen to the party if Thaksin stays away from politics? Who will be his successor and can they win the election?
As Thaksin means everything to his party, his exit could shape the poll's result.
With Thaksin at the helm, it's easy for party candidates to campaign because voters are still lured in by his populist policies.
And Thaksin has made those populist policies come true.
A party source said: "Without Thaksin, I won't know how to campaign. Rural people vote for us because they want Thaksin to be the prime minister."
Thaksin's return will also satisfy the party candidates in the North and Northeast but it is a problem for candidates in Bangkok and other urban areas where anti-Thaksin sentiments run high.
If Thaksin dares to run again, he may struggle to resist the forces allied against him who want him to stay out of politics and ensure he has limited influence over political reform.
However, if Thaksin does not come back to lead his party through the next election it would spark turmoil within the party as factions fight to fill the top spot. Despite ruling his party for eight years, Thaksin has not groomed a successor. Rival factions and cliques are poised to open the power play if he steps down.
If Thaksin returns, it might save his party from bitter infighting but not the country, which is set to enter a fresh crisis.