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Mahachon Party (MCP)

One of the few parties with prospects in 2005 for winning a bloc of parliamentary seats was one of the newest, Mahachon (MCP), established in July 2004 [other reporting says it was formed in mid-2003]. Mahachon began essentially as a breakaway faction of the Democrat Party. Headed by Anek Laothamathat and disgruntled DP ex-Secretary General Sanan Kachornprasart, this party's ideology was suspect. Anek and Sanan declared that they represent the "third way," a true alternative to the TRT and DP. Cynics predicted that its decision on whether to join the government or the opposition will be based on who offers the highest bid for its affections.

Major General (ret.) Sanan Kachornprasart, born in 1935, rose up in the ranks of the Army before entering politics. He first ran for election (unsuccessfully) in 1979 as a Democrat Party candidate; he won election in 1983, and chaired the House Committee on Military Affairs. In 1986 he became a Deputy Leader of the Democrat Party, and he began serving in a string of cabinet positions, including Minister of Agriculture, Minister of Industry, Minister of Interior, and Deputy Prime Minister. In 2000, he was found guilty in Constitutional Court proceedings of concealing assets and falsifying reports, and he lost his right to hold political office for a five-year period.

Mahachon's nominal leader is Dr. Anek Laothammathat, a former Dean of Political Science at Thammasat University and ex-Deputy DP Leader. Several other well-regarded DP MPs -- ex-Deputy DP Secretary General Akkhaphon Sorasuchat and ex-DP financier Phonthep Techaphaibun -- joined Mahachon as deputy party leaders. Mahachon's chief financial backer was ex-DP Secretary General MG Sanan Khachonprasat, who played a major behind the scenes role. Other financial support reportedly is supplied by Chaliaw Yuwitthaya of the Red Guar Beverage Company, with some also coming from business tycoon Charoen Siriwatthanaphakdi of the giant CP group of companies, who generously bankrolls several parties and political power brokers.

One improbable theory circulating in 2005 was that Mahachon was deliberately created as a branch of the DP, with a new name in order to improve the chances of regaining Northeastern voters, support. Under this theory Mahachon candidates taking TRT districts in the Northeast will reunite with the DP in forming a new government. The more realistic way of understanding Mahachon is that MG Sanan, unable to control Banyat, wanted to run a political party of his own for the wider political "opportunities" that could open. He wished to be in a position to be of value to any political party able to form a coalition government, in particular the ruling TRT of Thaksin.

Over the January 22-23, 2005 weekend, various newspaper and polling organizations came up with numbers indicating that TRT would take 254 of the 400 constituency seats to the DP's 85, CT's 39, and Mahachon's 21. Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra won a massive mandate in the 06 February 2005 parliamentary election -- unprecedented in Thai history.

If the Democrat Party and the Chart Thai saw their powers sharply diminished relative to the TRT, the Mahachon Party (MCP), formed only a year earlier, seemed to be on the way out. Wining only two seats, its ambitions to become the "third force" in Thai politics appeared to have collapsed. Even in the country's mostly rural, vote rich Northeast region, where it had expected to do well against TRT, MCP was swamped. For example, in Nakon Ratchasima Province, TRT appeared to have swept virtually all of the 16 seats. The Mahachon Party had been tipped to win four of these seats - instead it won none. This former Chat Pattana (CP) stronghold was now solidly TRT country following CP's official merger with TRT late last year. Mahachon party co-founder (and former DP kingmaker) Sanan Kachornprasart reportedly told the media that he will resign his party position and that the party should consider dissolving itself if it really had picked up only one seat. In fact, it picked up two seats.

Mahachon Chief Advisor MGen Sanan Kachornprasart officially resigned his position in the Mahachon Party (MCP). MCP Party Secretary General Chadet Insawhang also quit the party. The resignation of Sanan, the party's principal financial backer, could have led fairly quickly to dissolution of the Mahachon Party.

On 09 March 2005, the third full day of official business by Thailand's new 500-member National Assembly, 377 parliamentarians (MP) chose incumbent PM Thaksin Shinawatra of the Thai Rak Thai (TRT) party as prime minister. A total of 116 MPs abstained, 1 voted "no" and 6 were recorded absent. This outcome was no surprise following TRT's landslide victory on February 6 (Ref A). According to Parliamentary sources, 374 of TRTs 377 MPs voted for Thaksin, along with two Mahachon Party MPs, who formed that party's entire parliamentary delegation.

In 30 October 2005 by-elections, Siriwat Kachornprasart, son of Mahachon Party leader Gen. Sanan Kachornprasart, winning the Pichit constituency with a 39,000 to 22,000-vote lead over his TRT rival in a province known nationally for a legacy of organized crime. By all accounts this was not a clean fight, with credible allegations of vote-buying running alongside less-convincing accounts of out-of-town gunmen flocking to the scene. In Pichit, Mahachon turned the election into a referendum on party leader Sanan's political legacy on his home turf. In the case of Phichit, cash payments directly to voters backed up by personalized appeals proved a winning combo for Mahachon. Mahachon's win showed that old-style Thai politics, with its vote-buying schemes and personality-driven campaigning can still win against TRT's blend of modern political organization and influence peddling, at least on friendly turf.

In October 2007, Sanan and his political allies abandoned Mahachon and joined the Chart Thai Party. The cabinet of Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej inaugurated on 06 February 2008 was largely made up of figures with close ties to deposed Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. Sanan Kachornprasart was one the six Deputy Prime Ministers in this cabinet. Minister for Information and Communication Technology Man Patthanothai was the deputy leader of the Puea Pandin party. He was considered the right-hand man of party leader Vatana Asavahame, and has served Vatana as Secretary to the Minister in each of Vatana's previous ministerial positions (as Minister of Industry, Minister of Interior and the Prime Minister's Office). He had served four parliamentary terms representing Samut Prakarn province in several different parties, most recently Mahachon party before joining Puea Pandin with Vatana.

By 2007 Chart Thai was known for reflecting the notorious pragmatism of its Party Leader, on whom the party depended for its continued viability. As of 2007 Chart Thai was aligned with the Democrat Party and against PPP; Banharn had been publicly supportive of the coup and critical of Thaksin. Chart Thai picked up momentum by absorbing the (very small) Mahachon Party and attracting some high profile former Thai Rak Thai figures.




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