What price power? That is a question many Thai Democrats are asking themselves as they brace for a potentially historic few days that could sweep them back to office. The Democrat Party is one of the region's most enduring political groupings, and is seeking to restore itself as Thailand's pre-eminent ruling political force, a position it held for years before falling beneath the wheels of Thaksin Shinawatra's Thai Rak Thai juggernaut. Its higher motives include free-and-fair elections and an end to the money-go-round politics that has stymied Thailand for decades - values not always upheld by all its members. For years now, they have railed against the autocratic tendencies of Thaksin's populist rule. In public, they have painted him as a corrupt dictator who threatens the very fabric of Thailand, one of the region's freest and most independent nations. In private, some senior officials have gone even further, describing a political fight to the death to keep the billionaire telecoms tycoon from ever returning to power. The big fear is Thaksin, now a fugitive from justice, somehow exploiting any weakness after the reign of the revered King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who is 81 and ailing. Thaksin, they warn, is staunchly anti-monarchy despite his claims otherwise, bent on forging a rule that will see him in power for decades, allowing him to reshape the country in his own image. This fear has underpinned all the Democrats' efforts in recent years. Two years ago, they boycotted a snap election called by Thaksin, in part creating a maelstrom from which the country has yet to emerge. Then they stood quietly on the sidelines as the military ousted Thaksin in the nation's first coup in 15 years, and more recently as the anti-Thaksin People's Alliance for Democracy occupied Government House and shut down Bangkok's airports. Now, following a Constitutional Court decision last week that forced the disbandment of the ruling Thaksin-allied party, they see the main chance. Remarkably perhaps, their leaders have been able to break apart the ruling coalition of Thaksin's cronies just as it was attempting to reform yet again under a new banner. A faction under the wing of banned northeastern political veteran Newin Chidchob has switched camps after eight years of tying his colours to the Thaksin mast. Not even the return of Thaksin's recently divorced wife, Pojaman Shinawatra, for crisis talks could keep him in the tent. Some reports suggest he is also being leant on by leading military figures. If the deals hold, the Democrats will head a new ruling coalition in a special parliamentary session slated for Monday, led by Abhisit Vejjajiva as prime minister. But the difficulties will only then begin. Firstly, they will face the question of mandate. The Democrats failed to beat Thaksin's cronies at the ballot last December in the first election since the coup - a moment when the odds, it seemed, were stacked in their favour. Ruling unelected, the divisions that have split the country for months between the poor pro-Thaksin north and northeast and the anti-Thaksin elites in Bangkok will then intensify. They may also find themselves supping with devils. The Democrat leadership, including Mr Abhisit, hails from English public schools and Oxbridge. By contrast, the likes of Mr Chidchob are throwbacks to the days when Thai politics was dominated by godfather-types, who stood for little else other than snaring and keeping power, often doling out the cash to do so. Democrat fingers are crossed behind their backs, hoping somehow their backroom pacts will hold. Thaksin can be expected to be working the phones from exile, and will address a Bangkok rally via satellite tonight. But even if their luck does hold, they are going to need a great deal more of it if they are to hold power and ease the most serious tensions to engulf Thailand in two decades.