CHUAN LEEKPAI'S government has finally been brought down by pious proclamations of theatrical horror over sleaze after barely 21/2 years in office. Yet astonishingly, Mr Chuan managed to set a record for the longest-serving administration since the absolute monarchy was overthrown in 1932. Even when the Prime Minister decided to dissolve Parliament yesterday, he was not technically forced to do so; the Government would almost certainly have sailed through the no-confidence vote had it been held. The Palang Dharma Party that withdrew early yesterday said it would abstain in the vote; making it virtually impossible for the opposition to defeat the Government. This left Mr Chuan the option of finding a replacement coalition partner or with a vulnerable minority Government. Faced with increasingly unreliable coalition partners and the difficulties of shrugging off the opposition's vigorous smear campaign, Mr Chuan decided he had no alternative but to turn to the country. Despite carrying the highest reputation for honesty and public service, this has been a difficult period in office for Mr Chuan. The euphoria that followed the winning of the September 1992 election soon evaporated as the original united front of four parties that opposed the military's domination of politics engaged in bitter rivalries. The victorious parties' grandiose claims that their 'watershed' election would lead to fundamental economic and social reforms quickly started to sound hollow as good intentions became bogged down in the realities of office. It also became rapidly apparent that despite the bonding experience of helping to bring down a military-backed Government, such a feeling would not prevent the partners from trying to extract the maximum amount of political capital for their parties. In these circumstances Mr Chuan's critics say he was forced to become increasingly supine; willing to throw any policy promise out of the window as long as it kept him in office. The public - where it has a free vote untainted by money - appears simply to want clean, competent government: a prospect that remains as elusive as ever.