During the political turmoil swept through Thailand since February this year, Somkid Jatusripitak, the caretaker deputy prime minister in charge of economic policy, is always seen by both pro- and anti-Thaksin groups as an acceptable successor of the embattled Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
But the way-out was recently enveloped by Somkid himself, who is also the caretaker commerce minister. He told his favorites that he will not put his name on Thai Rak Thai's (TRT) party list for the next general election, that means he will rule himself out as a potential new prime minister.
Parties competing in general elections have to select candidates to run in constituencies and on the party list. Only those on the list will be eligible to become prime minister.
Bangkok Post Monday quoted TRT source as saying that Somkid cited the need to take a break as the reason not to run in the poll. Thaksin had agreed to the request but asked him to keep himself available to become a minister if the party again wins the election. Somkid has yet to decide on Thaksin's request.
The parliamentary election has been set for Oct. 15 but is likely to be deferred due to a delay in the selection of five new election commissioners.
During the past year, Somkid often said he has health problems. He was admitted to hospital on March 23 with a constricted artery in his heart. But the sources said his health was not an issue.
The sources said the commerce minister's main reason for not putting himself forward was that he had no desire to compete for the position with his party leader.
"Mr. Somkid did not want to see pressure piling on him. He also did not want to be seen by Thaksin as the one trying to compete for the prime ministership with him," one source was quoted by Bangkok Post as saying.
He had now made his decision clear for the party leader, the source said.
Another source said Somkid had assessed politics within the party and was uncertain that he would be picked by Thaksin to be his successor if Thai Rak Thai returns to Government House, and Thaksin chose to step aside as prime minister.
That uncertainty had led to Somkid's decision to opt out as a potential candidate.
Thaksin has confirmed that his name will go first on the party list. But he is yet to decide whether he still wants to be government leader again, or hand over the post to someone else.
Other candidates vying to be prime minister in case Thaksin takes a break include deputy party leader Pokin Polakul, and deputy leader and caretaker Agriculture and Cooperatives Minister Sudarat Keyuraphan.
But Somkid has been the favorite according to opinion polls and business figures. He is receiving strong backing inside the party from the Wang Nam Yom faction led by caretaker Labor Minister Somsak Thepsuthin and the Wang Phaya Nak faction of caretaker Public Health Minister Phinij Jarusombat.
They believed the 53-year-old politician had the expertise in economic affairs needed to run the country, and ability to bargainwith all factions inside the party.
Even Chart Thai party leader Banharn Silpa-archa favored him to succeed Thaksin if he wants to leave politics.
But sources said Somkid has not gained the trust of Thaksin and his wife, Khunying Potjaman, especially when the party leader was in need of help.
Somkid had told Somsak, Phinij, caretaker Education Minister Chaturon Chaisaeng, caretaker Minister to the Prime Minister's Office Suranand Vejjajiva, caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and caretaker Deputy Commerce Minister Preecha Laohapongchana in a recent meeting about his decision to turn his back on politics, according to the sources.