November 29, 2023
BANGKOK – Watanya “Madame Dear” Bunnag will formally announce her quest for the leadership of the Democrat Party on Wednesday, making it a two-horse race.
Watanya, who chairs the party’s Political Innovation Committee for Bangkok, is scheduled to pay respect to the Mother Earth statue at the Democrat head office at 9.09am on Wednesday. She will then meet the press at 10am to formally announce her candidacy for the leader’s post, who will be elected on December 9.
Watanya, who is married to Nation Multimedia Group CEO Chai Bunnag, will contest against Democrat party-list MP and acting deputy leader Narapat Kaeothong.
The December 9 election is the third attempt for Thailand’s oldest political party to elect its new leader and executive board.
The two previous attempts failed and were deferred because of disputes between two major factions – those loyal to former party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva and those backing acting party leader Chalermchai Sri-on.
Chalermchai’s faction now dominates the party’s MPs, so the Abhisit faction proposed the party’s election rules be amended to give equal weight to votes from both MPs and non-MPs.
However, Chalermchai’s faction disagreed with the proposal, prompting a walkout by members of Abhisit’s faction, which caused the party’s previous two caucuses to lack quorum.
Watanya is known to belong to Abhisit’s faction, while Narapat belongs to Chalermchai’s.
Often referred to as the “iron flower” of Thai politics, Watanya was previously the manager of the Thai under-23 national football team.
She was also a Palang Pracharat MP before she joined the Democrat Party.
The former MP completed her bachelor’s in Liberal Arts at Thammasat University and was the director of four media firms before she entered politics. The firms under her jurisdiction were Spring News Corporation, Spring News Television, Ruam Mue Ruam Jai Co Ltd and Thansetthakij Multimedia Co Ltd.
In 2016, she was the biggest shareholder of News Network Corporation Plc and was appointed manager of the under-23 Thai national football team. The team won the SEA Games the following year.
Watanya entered politics in 2018 as a member of the Palang Pracharath Party and was elected as party-list MP in 2019.
On August 16, 2022, she quit as Palang Pracharath MP and joined the Democrat party a month later.
‘Madam Dear’ to announce candidacy for Democrat leadership on Wednesday
Narapat, meanwhile, has said he intends to revive the Democrat Party, which has been slumping in popularity recently.
“The Democrat Party has no owner. It belongs to everybody and I want to improve it in response to the current era. I’m willing to step down when there is a more suitable leader found,” he said.
Narapat was entrusted to lead the Democrat Party to contest the May 14 election in the North.
He is the son of former Phichit MP and ex-labour minister Paitoon Kaeothong.
Narapat earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Ramkhamhaeng University and an MBA from the National University in the US.
He made his political debut by contesting and winning a House seat in Phichit’s Constituency 2 in 2001. He was re-elected as Phichit MP in 2007 and again in 2011.
He climbed up in the party ranks by winning the post of deputy secretary-general in August 2011 and deputy party leader in 2019. He took over a party-list MP post in 2022 and won it again in 2023.