There is a big question mark over the leadership of the Pheu Thai Party as fugitive former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra will likely withhold his blessing for MP Mingkwan Saengsuwan as a prime ministerial candidate due to infighting.
At this juncture, the Mingkwan clique has no more than 60 votes and Thaksin's untimely intervention might widen the party's rift, a party official said yesterday on condition of anonymity.
"Thaksin's rejection of Mingkwan will not trigger a mass defection from Pheu Thai," the official added.
On Saturday, some 40 Pheu Thai MPs flew to meet Thaksin in Dubai in order to pitch for his intervention in favour of Mingkwan.
But party insiders said Thaksin was, in fact, preparing a counter-move by convincing the MPs not to make a hasty decision in support of Mingkwan because of his insufficient support base.
They said Thaksin might restructure the main opposition party to appease Mingkwan's supporters.
Thaksin did not see Mingkwan as a potential candidate for premiership, they said, arguing that Mingkwan's achievements were limited to his sale campaign for cars and his management experience at the Mass Communication Organisation of Thailand.
Pheu Thai MP Jatuporn Promphan dismissed speculation that Mingkwan wanted ties between the main opposition party and the red-shirt movement to be severed.
"I can confirm Mingkwan has no such thoughts," he said, insisting rumour-mongers wanted to drive a wedge between Mingkwan and the red shirts.
Commenting on the push for Mingkwan to join the premiership race, he said it was too early for him to take a stand.
Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said the meeting between Thaksin and the MPs was an occasion to exchange New Year greetings.
Prompong said he was unaware the MPs would raise any political issues, including Mingkwan's job prospect.
As soon as the prime minister sets the poll date, Pheu Thai will definitely designate its candidate for premiership, he said.
PM Abhisit Vejjajiva said he had been informed about the meeting in Dubai. He said he hoped Thaksin would keep his promise to seek change only through parliamentary means.
Regarding extradition efforts, he said the bilateral agreement with Dubai did not cover the Thaksin case.
Thaksin's legal adviser Noppadon Patama said the Dubai meeting was a social event to welcome well-wishers for the New Year holiday and that there were no political talks.
Noppadon said he did not expect Thaksin to interfere in the Pheu Thai affairs on Mingkwan's behalf.