The winner of the Bangkok Governor election wouldn’t normally get so many headlines except that this election did, and there’s a few reasons why, and some take aways for everyone after the results became apparent yesterday. Really, the polls have been so clear on this election, the actual poll ended up a mere formality.
Although the Election Commission has not formally announced the winners, Chadchart Sittipunt is Bangkok’s new governor…. A 55 year old former transport minister and Pheu Thai minister – that’s the opposition party – the very same party that were ditched from power in a coup precisely eight years ago yesterday.
Chadchart had spent the last 2 years crafting this victory and drawn on thousands of volunteers around Bangkok’s 50 districts.
Covid 19 ended up playing into his campaign’s hands with an urgent need for support of the city’s poor, so food bag relief became a visible part of his campaign as he slowly won the hearts and minds of the city’s voters. But his team also campaigned on 200 different polices, targeting on-the-ground city issues rather than the politics.
The result is more than a win for the hard-working candidate. It wasn’t even close.
With 100% of the votes now counted, rounding up to the nearest thousand, Mr Chadchart received 1,387,000 votes. Then there was literally everyone else, the other 30 candidates, with the next highest candidate receiving 255,000 votes. The former Governor Aswin, a puppet governor put into the job by the NCPO military coup after they cancelled the 2014 Bangkok election, came fifth with 215,000 votes.
In fact, if you tally up the votes from the next five candidates you still don’t reach the number of votes received by the winner.
So let’s call it a landslide.
But there will be some people unhappy about the former Pheu Thai transport minister’s win, most notably the incumbent coalition national government led by, well for now anyway, the Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha.
Candidates representing the conservative side of Thai politics were decimated, that includes candidates representing Palang Pracharat, the Democrats and royalist parties.
The Democrats were sidelined early after a number of #metoo issues arose, not the least a cavalcade of sexual misconduct allegations directed at the party’s deputy leader. The fallout meant the Democrats were out of the race early, despite Bangkok city always being a stronghold for them in the past.
But for the other conservative candidates the result is devastating. And the vote count for the Bangkok election will now stain the PM as he walks into the next parliamentary session where another vote of no-confidence on his leadership will be held.
It should also be noted that there was a strong flow of votes from conservative voters and the so-called Bangkok elite that led to Chadchart’s win. That’s another problem the Prayut government will need to absorb.
Just a final side note on yesterday’s Bangkok Governor election. Chadchart Sittipunt was the transport minister for the Pheu Thai party when on May 22, 2014, there was a military coup, exactly 8 years to the day the Bangkok Governor election was held. On the day of the coup in 2014 Chadchart was taken away to a secret location, against his will, with a bag over his head by Thai soldiers.
So Chadchart’s landslide win has special significance for the new Bangkok governor. And this local election will now reverberate around Thai national politics for at least the rest of this
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