March 23, 2023
BANGKOK – Jurin Laksanawisit declared he will fight for the country’s top job in the May 14 general election despite facing difficulties as leader of Thailand’s oldest, but disintegrating party.
Under Jurin’s leadership, many outstanding politicians and former MPs jumped ship in droves.
The Democrat Party has been bleeding since Jurin took over after the 2019 election until now.
Yet, despite the defections, Jurin announced on November 15 last year that he would lead the Democrats as its sole PM candidate in the upcoming election.
“With my experience, my work, my ideology, my attitude, and my achievements, I’m ready [to be PM candidate],” he said.
Political gurus, however, see this announcement as merely a formality as the Democrat Party is in a bad shape and will certainly not capture enough House seats to push Jurin to the post of PM.
They say Jurin only made the announcement to shore up the morale of party supporters ahead of the election.
Jurin became party leader after his predecessor Abhisit Vejjajiva stepped down to take responsibility for the party’s humiliating defeat in the 2019 election. The party only managed to garner 53 seats in Parliament. The biggest humiliation was its resounding defeat in Bangkok, which was its longstanding stronghold.
Yet Jurin is seen by many Democrats as lacking the charisma to lead the party, prompting many to either defect or form their own parties. The key members who have bolted so far include Korn Chatikavanij, Witthaya Kaewparadai, Thavorn Senneam and Pirapan Salirathavibhaga.
Still, many supporters are happy that the party under Jurin’s leadership was awarded several Cabinet seats for supporting the government set up by coup leader General Prayut Chan-o-cha. Jurin himself was awarded the post of deputy PM and commerce minister.
Jurin, perhaps realising his lack of charisma, is seeking help from three former party leaders who have retained their Democrat membership to help him lead election campaigns. They are Abhisit, Chuan Leekpai and Banyat Bantadtan.
Born on March 15, 1956, in Phang Nga’s Thai Muang district, Jurin completed his bachelor’s in Political Science at Thammasat University and master’s in Public Administration at the National Institute of Development Administration.
While in university, Jurin drew a series of political cartoons under the pseudonym “Udda”, a nickname that has stuck.
Jurin has been elected as MP 11 times so far – six times as a Phang Nga representative and five times as party-list MP.
During Abhisit’s tenure, Jurin became education minister and initiated the policy of free education for 15 years. This policy made him one of the most popular members of Abhisit’s Cabinet.
He later became public health minister after the resignation of Wittaya Kaewparadai.
In 2019, he was elected to lead the Democrat Party after Abhisit resigned.
It is yet to be seen if Jurin will be able to help the Democrats perform better than it did in the last election, let alone emerge as the biggest party that will qualify him to contest for the PM’s seat.