News / Asia

Bangkok Governor Election Could Impact Thai National Politics

Ron Corben
Bangkok’s voters go to the polls Sunday to elect a new governor for the Thai capital city of 10 million people. The close campaign is being seen by analysts as a key benchmark for Thailand’s political landscape that has been divided since the 2011 national elections.

At a political rally in central Bangkok, Democrat Party supporters of incumbent governor, Suhkumbhand Paribatra, cheer on their candidate in the final week of campaigning before the March 3 poll.

Sukhumbhand, a former deputy foreign minister, has held office since 2009 but is facing a tough fight from a former police general, Pongsaphat Pongchareon.

Former police general Pongsaphat Pongchareon is running for governor of Thailand's capital, Bangkok, Feb. 26, 2013. (R. Corben/VOA)Former police general Pongsaphat Pongchareon is running for governor of Thailand's capital, Bangkok, Feb. 26, 2013. (R. Corben/VOA)
x
Former police general Pongsaphat Pongchareon is running for governor of Thailand's capital, Bangkok, Feb. 26, 2013. (R. Corben/VOA)
Former police general Pongsaphat Pongchareon is running for governor of Thailand's capital, Bangkok, Feb. 26, 2013. (R. Corben/VOA)
Pongsaphat has the backing of the nationally governing Pheu Thai Party led by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose party won national vote in July 2011. 

Sukhumbhand, behind in most opinion polls, admits he faces a tough fight. Bangkok has been a longstanding stronghold of the conservative Democrat Party.     

“It’s tougher than last time because the opposition is tougher. It means that I have to work harder and I’m not [leading], so I don’t have the burden of leadership and I have full knowledge that historically early polls have always been weighted against us,” said Sukhumband.

Some 20 candidates are seeking the governor’s post. Campaign promises extend from creating bicycle paths to improving traffic management, waste disposal, and even extending mass transportation systems.

But the powers largely responsible for governing the city’s infrastructure lay with the central government in ministries of transport and roads.

Pheu Thai’s Pongsaphat says a victory for him would allow a closer working relationship with the national government.

“The benefit from the Pheu Thai Party is only one thing, is the Prime Minister [Yingluck] who comes from the Pheu Thai Party," he said. "So if we have something that can work closely we can change Bangkok a lot because a lot of big projects we need more money, we have to link together. The authority of the Bangkok Governor and the budget is very small. We need help from the government to make everything change.”

Bangkok has been a flashpoint for Thailand’s political drama in recent years. In 2011, devastating floods shook confidence in the Pheu Thai-led government. A year earlier, the city was the center of sometimes bloody anti-government political rallies against the Democrat Party.

Some analysts say a Pheu Thai Party win in a city that has been dominated by the Democrats would have broad implications.

Chris Baker is an author and commentator on Thai politics.

“This will be the first reading of the electorate since the last general election and as such both sides see it as somehow being a kind of measurement of how the public have changed or reacted since the last election or to what this [Yingluck] government has done. Both the Democrats and Pheu Thai want a result that they can interpret and publicize in those terms,” he said.

Opponents of Pheu Thai have long accused the party of seeking a way to allow former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra to return to Thailand. He now lives in exile to avoid a jail term for corruption.

Some see the Bangkok race as a litmus test for Thaksin’s return. Others say that if the city votes for the Pheu Thai candidate, it would allow the national government to move ahead with efforts to reconcile the still deep political divisions in Thailand. 

Polls are already indicating a tightening in the race in the final days as more undecided voters move to make a final decision.

You May Like

Polls Open in Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, 'No' voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve, 'Yes' vote not worth the risk More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Wateri
X
September 17, 2014 8:44 PM
Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid