Leaders of the Democrat Party voiced cautious optimism last night, with Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva saying there was still hope for some economic growth this year and his right-hand man promising more political stability.
Abhisit spent New Year's Eve defending the government's emergency economic package, saying it was comprehensive enough to produce positive returns in the latter half of the year and benefit individuals and enterprises at the grass-roots level as much as big businesses.
Deputy Prime Minister Suthep Thaugsuban, the Democrats' "king-maker'', said the new coalition government was strong enough to last the distance. However, he called for a truce with rivals, saying he was ready to prostrate himself before ousted prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra if it would bring peace back to Thailand.
The man who engineered the dramatic political realignment that installed Abhisit as prime minister early in December has held a deceptively low profile in public. Regarded by those in the know as the man who holds the key to the stability of the government - a coalition of former arch-enemies - Suthep is positive about the administration's flexibility.
In an interview with The Nation, he sought to allay fears about the government's instability. "I am not worried, because we have come this far. If the Samak Sundaravej government could last almost a year, why can't a Democrat-led administration survive?'' he said.
However, this optimism is based on pure statistics. This government has 37 votes more than the opposition, and though some MPs doubling as ministers will not be able to vote for government-sponsored bills, the Democrat-led coalition still has 13 more MPs than the other side in any vote.
"We want to serve for as long as we can, though I don't want to boast by saying we are ready to serve the full three-year term. Some critics have given us three months and people look down on me every day, some even from my party. They believed I could not form a government, now they think we will not last. I have no other choice but to convince them," he said.
Suthep's confidence owes much to the "long-term understanding" he has with fellow veteran politicians like Banharn Silapa-archa, Sor-at Klinprathum, Suwit Khunkitti and Newin Chidchob.
"Though they were old rivals, I hold no grudges against them. We were not fighting because of personal issues, we were just doing our job. If others had the sort of political battle Newin and I did, for instance, they may not attend each other's funerals. But Newin decided to support us, so I see that as a good sign,'' he said.
He also said that "sacrificing" significant ministries such as Interior, Transport, Agriculture and Commerce for the allies was not a destabilising factor.
"I have never thought of that as a problem. We are in a government, so we work as a team to achieve the same goal,'' Suthep explained.
As for claims that the new government is copying Thaksin's "populist" policies, Suthep said wiping out the rivals' legacy would not help with the new prime minister's reconciliation plans.
"Why do we have to dismantle their house? If we do that, it shows we have no intentions of reconciling from the very beginning," he said.
Suthep argued that the government would continue with the populist policies, but use them constructively. For example, village funds will not be used for immediate consumption but instead for long-term investment, job creation and community development.
He vowed to continue holding out an olive branch to rivals, saying he has been extending a hand of friendship to Pheu Thai Party faction leaders like Yongyuth Tiyapairat, Sudarat Keyuraphan and Chaturon Chaisang.
"I have called Yongyuth. I am ready to talk to them all because we are not foes waiting to kill each other. I will meet him after New Year's Day. I am also ready to talk to Thaksin. In fact, I am ready to prostrate myself in front of him, not for myself but for the country. I want to ask him directly 'Can we have a truce?' " Suthep said.