Residents vote for change . . .
In the first significant election since the 2014 coup led by current Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha, residents of Bangkok elected Chadchart Sittipunt on Sunday as their city’s governor. Chadchart is an independent politician and former transport minister under the Pheu Thai government. Winning 52 per cent of the vote, Chadchart declared that this “shows the power of democracy and the will of the people.” Wiroj Lakhanaadisorn, the progressive Move Forward Party candidate who finished third, was spotted with Chadchart on Monday, leading to speculation that Wiroj may be chosen as deputy governor. The majority of the 50 Bangkok Metropolitan Council seats were captured by opposition candidates, while the national ruling party secured only two seats.
Victory two years in the making . . .
Chadchart’s victory can be attributed to his clear policy proposals, savvy use of social media, and an almost two-year-long campaign in which he put forward a positive vision for Bangkok. He was also popular among youth, many first-time voters and active in the 2020-2021 pro-democracy protests. Chadchart vowed to work with communities and councillors to address flooding, road safety, and the economy – perennial issues in Thailand’s capital. Although he won as an independent candidate, Chadchart’s previous affiliation with Pheu Thai may lead him to be viewed with suspicion in a country that is still highly polarized between the so-called ‘red shirts,’ supporters of ousted former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, and the royalist ‘yellow shirts.’
Barometer for general elections . . .
Given the Thai government’s poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, lacklustre economic recovery, and intensified political repression, experts believe that Sunday’s election in Bangkok is tantamount to a rejection of the national ruling coalition and could predict the outcome of the next general election. Prime Minister Prayut Chan-ocha downplayed the results, saying Bangkok does not represent the entire country. However, Bangkok is the largest constituency and the only province where the governor is elected rather than appointed by the Ministry of Interior. It remains to be seen whether Thailand’s largely rural electorate shares similar anti-government sentiments. General elections are expected to be held some time in 2023, with rumours that the government may dissolve parliament in November.
- Bangkok Post: Capital vote ‘not a bellwether’
- Khaosod English: Bangkok Governor’s election won by opposition figure
- Thai Enquirer: Five takeaways from the Bangkok elections