Focus on your football team, Abhisit tells Newin

THAILAND - Both the Pheu Thai and the Democrats yesterday played down veteran politician Newin Chidchob's prediction that the top candidates of these two parties would most probably not be at the helm of the next government.

Key figures from the two parties - which are being seen as the main competitors in the upcoming election - have voiced suspicion about Newin having a hidden agenda behind the prediction as well as his analysis of the post-election environment.

Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, who is also leader of the Democrat Party, said yesterday that he believed Newin had made this prediction in order to gain "media space" ahead of the July 3 poll and to boost the significance given to the party he is linked to.

"I'm sure his predictions are wrong. He should be focusing on his football team," Abhisit said.

Newin - seen as de-facto leader of coalition partner Bhum Jai Thai Party - has been active recently as president of the PEA Buri Ram Football Club. He was stripped of his electoral rights for five years after a court ruling dissolved the Thai Rak Thai Party in 2007 and slapped a political ban on 111 of its executives.

Abhisit disputed another prediction made by Newin, who said that the Democrat Party would win no more than 160 of the 500 House seats in the upcoming election. "We will win more than that," he said.

However, the premier did agree with Newin's observation that he might step down as party leader if the Democrats suffer a severe loss in the election.

Meanwhile, Pheu Thai's Noppadon Patama yesterday also rejected Newin's prediction that Yingluck Shinawatra would not become the prime minister even if the party wins the elections. Noppadon was previously former premier Thaksin Shinawatra's legal counsel and close aide when they were part of the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai party.

Noppadon said Thaksin - who is believed to be pulling the strings from behind the scenes in Pheu Thai - has not wavered in his support for his sister's battle for the country's top job. He made this comment in reaction to Newin's remark that Yingluck was a decoy for Thaksin, not a real candidate.

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