The Showdown (Newin vs. Thaksin)

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Newin Chidchob vs. Thaksin Shinawatra…I’m pretty sure both of them never thought it would come down to this. No body else certainly thought it would come down to this. Before the 2001 landslide elections which put Thaksin into power for the next five years, the two of them forged an alliance that would hand the Kingdom over to them on a platter. With Thaksin’s power in the North and Newin’s influence in the Northeast, they controlled ¾ of the country’s population.

And that’s exactly what happened. Sticking to the “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” concept, they shared constituencies…they shared projects…they shared power. They enjoyed a very long honeymoon period.

Then came the mass protests of 2006! When Thaksin was forced take a recess from politics, Newin was one of the first to bestow a fierce embrace on Thaksin with tears in his eyes! At the time, critics teased that Newin looked even more forlorn than Pojaman!

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But even though the match was made in heaven, it certainly didn’t last!

When Thaksin was overthrown in 2007, Newin played his cards right. He kept up appearances, making sure everyone knew he was still with the Thaksin camp. It wasn’t until late 2008 when support for Thaksin was going down the drain that we saw the first signs of rebellion. Individuals in the Newin faction starting criticizing Thaksin’s actions, actions they believed to be targeted against the monarchy. Shortly after that, the setting up of the Bhum Jai Thai Party and the joining of a Democrat led coalition.

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Now, believe it or not, it’s down to the by-elections in Sakon Nakhon and Si Sa Ket provinces. Both the Pheu Thai and Bhum Jai Thai parties are aggressively campaigning in the constituencies in a showdown that promises to determine who will take the Northeast now that Thaksin is no longer influential. Newin insists that he was the reason Thaksin became so popular in the Esan area and is hell bent on proving exactly that!

If Newin’s party wins the by-elections, it will not be a repercussion for only Thaksin and his supporters. It will also mean that Newin will have more bargaining power over the Democrats. So far, Abhisit has been able to politely fend off controversial projects such as the NGV bus project and the rice pledging program. But the momentum gained with victories in the Northeast could give Newin the winning edge.

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It could also mean that Newin will most likely win the next general election. Remember that in Thailand, whoever wins the Northeast, wins! The Democrats know this too and if they are not willing to give Newin what he wants (i.e. the NGV bus project) because they could be left in the cold once again when it’s time to set up the next coalition government.

So the by-elections this weekend shouldn’t be taken lightly. It is indeed a showdown… between Newin and Thaksin. A showdown that could indirectly force Mr. Prime Minister to be much nicer when dealing with his Bhum Jai Thai buddies!

Story by: Sarosha Pornudomsak

Published on 19 June 2009

Thai Asean News Network:  PERSPECTIVES

 

Round one to Thaksin, but Newin’s undaunted

IT WAS JUST THE FIRST ROUND, all right. That’s what I told somebody who pointed to the by-election results in Sakon Nakhon and triumphantly ridiculed my December 10 article “Thaksin is dead, long live Newin”. You can interpret the easy victory of the Pheu Thai Party anyway you want, but here’s the bottom line: Thaksin Shinawatra must be celebrating the victory in a Middle Eastern hotel room all alone, but Newin Chidchob can still cry all the way to the bank.

In other words, although Thaksin is still capable of haunting his opponents, it’s Newin who will still be haunting us. The former premier’s last-minute phone-ins turned the tide in Pheu Thai’s favour in the by-election battle, but how many of you really cared or were even aware of that? We have all had a new obsession – the Newin-Abhisit stormy love affair.

The Democrats have been dutifully sending condolences to Bhum Jai Thai, but at their private meetings chuckles must be endless. Newspapers also gave Newin and Co little sympathy, portraying their defeat as a shocking, if not embarrassing, upset. That, however, says a lot about the reversal in fortunes of the two men.

It took years of Thaksin to make people who had never thought they would embrace Newin warm up to the younger guy. And it has taken just months of Newin to make many people feel that a Thaksin election win is not too bad. The Sakon Nakhon poll has brought Newin down to earth and given him that popular lesson in politics – “Not too fast”.

This is not to say that Newin is rashly ambitious and that it will be his downfall. One key difference between him and Thaksin is Newin is flexible and knows when to stop, concede, or even hide. And unlike the Bhum Jai Thai candidate in the by-election, Newin won’t roll over and die. He remains one of the most important pillars supporting the Abhisit government and records show he has always thrived in this kind of situation

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