One day after pushing the country to the brink, Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej yesterday saw his own future on the line, with enemies and allies seriously scrutinising a judgement that could plunge the nation into a political abyss.
He tried to fix the damage by going on TV again, claiming this time that Saturday's "threat" to use force to end an anti-government rally by the People's Alliance for Democracy was misunderstood.
That appeared to some as having come too late and too unconvincing. It also did little to calm speculation that his days could be numbered.
Some human rights advocates sharply criticised him. Coalition partners were unhappy. Some elements in the People Power Party were so angry that rumours flew about a rebellion. Even Thaksin Shinawatra was believed to be gritting his teeth.
In one typical slash of his notoriously acerbic tongue, Samak appeared to have revitalised the PAD, which had been seen as having difficulty drawing interests from a tired nation and trying to gain credit from the international community.
With the constitutional amendment draft in limbo, at least for now, the PAD's vociferous albeit peaceful protest was in danger of losing a key selling point. Saturday's threat came out of nowhere and surprised even those on his side.
Some sources said Samak was infuriated by stinging attacks on him from the PAD rally stage. But for a leader who often declared he was never an advocate of polite language, the reported outrage was somewhat hard to understand.
He left a politically weary nation on the edge for an entire day, before Interior Minister Chalerm Yoobamrung stepped in with an apparently improvised story to ease tension.
Chalerm claimed the threat to "dissolve" the rally had been made to pre-empt a third party from sabotaging it because that could have triggered violence.
Now that the sabotage had been dealt a blow, he said, the rally could continue.
Samak was not even synchronised with Chalerm yesterday when he tried to repair the damage. There was never a threat, Samak insisted, only an attempt to ask the protesters to relocate to end traffic problems.
The PAD yesterday declared a "victory" and vowed to continue campaigning, which has been re-prioritised as an anti-Samak rally. Although the declaration was a big overstatement, with a long way to go before "victors" in the political showdown can be identified, Samak did emerge a real loser.
Having given Jakrapob Penkair steadfast support at
the height of the FCCT speech controversy, Samak failed to keep him from being forced to resign as PM's Office minister and suffered a red face when police decided to file charges. His second disastrous miscalculation on Saturday has prompted speculation that his weak ties with the PPP, of which he has no real control, could be severed.
Rumours generated from the PPP mentioned Thaksin's brother-in-law Somchai Wongsawat, the deputy prime minister and education minister, as a possible Samak successor. More outrageous whisperings had coalition allies ganging up with some PPP factions to prop up Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva as a new prime minister.
But will Samak leave the scene quietly by resigning? Those who know him well said he is more likely to wield the only weapon that he has. A House dissolution will create new uncertainties for his foes and estranged friends alike and, in Samak's opinion, may serve them right.