The Democrats could not have hoped for a better Sunday. Their Bangkok gubernatorial candidate became the first ever to win the city election with the party in power; the outcome of provincial by-elections has boosted the government's parliamentary numbers; and there were plenty of signs that the shadow Thaksin Shinawatra has been casting upon Thai politics is beginning to fade.
The question now is what the Democrats are going to do with all these blessings. They can only go so far in blaming obstacles posed by the red-shirted opposition movement and Thaksin's alleged underground manoeuvrings. Sunday has given the Democrats what they want: reaffirmed support from Bangkok and positive signals from some rural people that they also are willing to give them a chance. The "legitimacy" question, all of a sudden, doesn't look too much of a problem.
This window of opportunity, however, could slam shut at any time. The Democrats have the Thai people's political fatigue to thank largely for the election results. The outcome is a reluctant, rather than whole-hearted, endorsement of the Abhisit Vejjajiva administration.
And when we endorse someone after so much hesitation, that person naturally will be hounded by scepticism unless all the cautious expectations are met.
While the Democrats must have embraced all of Sunday's results, they will have to take a big note of caution stemming from the outcome. Thai politics after the Thaksin era is becoming "localised" once again, which will revive the same old problems faced by predecessors of the ousted leader. At one time, it used to be that anyone who received Thaksin's blessing would easily win an election, and it seemed that factional politics - in which powerful rural politicians could pull the strings at the national level - was becoming a thing of the past. Now, with the fading out of Thaksin, that malignant phenomenon seems to be fading in again.
Despite the increased parliamentary power, Prime Minister Abhisit still doesn't have the luxury that Thaksin had of ruling in virtual carefree disregard for what goes on in the legislative branch. Because of his overwhelming command of the House of Representatives and constitutional leverage that made it difficult for MPs to defect, Thaksin ruled with such a strong "mandate" that every mistake and error escaped the law of checks and balances. The opposition never had enough parliamentary numbers to censure Thaksin, and he shuffled controversial ministers around to help them avoid scrutiny without having to worry about them rebelling.
Sunday's results give Abhisit a bigger breathing space but he will remain in the real world in which a faction leader controlling a dozen MPs can make or break his future. On one hand these imperfect checks and balances will keep the ruling party on its toes, and the Democrat ministers must be careful not to do anything that could increase the leverage of factions. On the other hand, if or when ministers from the factions give in to their greed, Abhisit will get himself an acid test of leadership.
Abhisit now has an immunity strong enough to carry out his agenda and fragile enough to keep him on the ground. He is luckier than Thaksin because an impenetrable mandate can simply blind any leader. And he is also luckier than Samak Sundaravej and Somchai Wongsawat for obvious reasons. Without distracting court cases, protracted political protests and an occasionally restless military, Abhisit will be able to do what the other two couldn't - work.
Meanwhile, it remains to be seen how the parliamentary opposition and its red-shirted sympathisers will take Sunday's defeats, which some observers perceived as a clear message that a growing part of the population is tired of the prolonged political conflict.
The Pheu Thai Party, which remains understandably bitter about the "hijacking" of its "right" to form a new government after the party dissolution rulings, now has some soul-searching to do.
The political stand-off may linger if the party considers Sunday's setback as a domino effect of the hijacking conspiracy, and decides to stick with an eye-for-an-eye strategy to cripple the new government. But there may be light at the end of the tunnel if Pheu Thai switches its approach, starting with shaking loose the shadow of Thaksin.
Unlike events over the past year, whether this government survives or falls will depend more on itself. External factors will still matter, but Sunday confirmed that as long as the Abhisit government does not let the people down, there will be enough of a shield against the ill fate that befell the Samak and Somchai administrations. For the first time in weeks, the Democrat-led government seems to have a real advantage. Whether and how it uses it will determine its own future.