Today, by-elections will be held on 5 constituencies, 3 in the Northeast (Khon Kaen, Nakhon Ratchasima, and Surin), 1 in Bangkok and the other in Ayutthaya (Central Thailand). In each race, there are only two main candidates, one from the opposition Puea Thai and the other from a member of the governing coalition. Puea Thai are contesting all 5 constituencies, the Democrats 2 constituencies (Khon Kaen and Bangkok), Bhum Jai Thai 2 constituencies (Nakhon Ratchasima) and Chart Thai Pattana 1 constituency (Ayutthaya).
Let’s deal with the certainties first.
Bangkok Constituency 2: The Democrats currently hold this seat and not even a miracle will help Puea Thai. The main reasons the Democrats will win this seat are:
1. The Democrats won all 3 of the constituency seats in this constituency in the 2007 general election and each Democrat MP received at least 120,000 votes whereas the average for the PPP (the pro-Thaksin party before Puea Thai) was less than 60,000 votes.
2. The Democrat MP who held the seat, Somkiat Chanthawanich, is not contesting and instead the Democrats have recruited Apirak Kosayodhin, a former Bangkok governor who won the governorship in 2008 in a landslide.
3. The seat covers the Yannawa and Sathon districts, key central business districts, and in addition to Apirak’s popularity, Finance Minister Korn is an MP in this constituency and has been on the campaign trail.
4. Many parts of this constituency were directly affected by the red shirt protests.
BP: Puea Thai will be looking to reduce the margin so Apirak’s margin is not double the Puea Thai candidate’s vote count whereas the Democrats will be looking to make sure Apirak receives twice the number of votes as the Puea Thai candidate.
Khon Kaen Constituency 2: Puea Thai currently hold this seat and it will take a miracle for the Democrats to win. The main reasons Puea Thai will win this seat are:
1. PPP won all 3 of the constituency seats in this constituency in the 2007 general election by large margins.
2. It has been stated in the press that this election will be a battle between Bhum Jai Thai and Puea Thai in the Northeast. So bad is Bhum Jai Thai’s chance of winning here that they are not even contesting. The Democrats are.
3. The Puea Thai candidate Preechapol Pongpanich received more than 130,000 votes in the 2007 general election. The highest place Democrat candidate didn’t even break 8,000 votes.
4. Khon Kaen is a stronghold of the Pongpanich family. Preechapol’s mother (Rabiabrat) is a former Senator.
5. According to Matichon Weekly, Suthep’s goal is to get more than 50,000 votes (i.e the Democrats are not even talking about the possibility of winning).
BP: The margin of victory is unlikely to be as large as 2007 simply because the other coalition partners are not contesting (one Chart Thai candidate received more than 50,000 votes in 2007) and well by the description in Matichon Weekly they are put significant resources into this province to increase their vote total – the other seat they are contesting is in Bangkok which is a dead certainty so there are resources they can put in in here.
Ayutthaya Constituency 1: This is likely to be a close race. Chart Thai Pattana currently hold the seat and their candidate Kuakul Danchaiwijit, recently who was deputy transport minister, was able to Puea Thai Party’s candidate Ongart Wachirapong, accompanied by deputy House Speaker and Puea Thai MP Col Apiwan Wiriyachai, drew number one for the Ayutthaya by-election.
In Ayutthaya, Kuakul Danchaiwijit from the coalition Chart Thai Pattana Party, who has just resigned as deputy transport minister, is seeking to regain his MP seat. He was lucky to win the seat in 2007 after placing third. However, Puea Thai currently holds 4 out of the 5 seats in Ayutthaya and 2 of the 3 seats in this constituency and they will want to take the final seat. so will be looking to take the final seat. There is also significant red shirt support in the province. Nevertheless, as Chart Thai Pattana can count of the support from their coalition partners, the result will likely be close
Surin Constituency 3: Puea Paendin did hold this seat (although this MP was a defector from the pro-Thaksin PPP) , but are not contesting. It is a straight battle between Bhum Jai Thai and Puea Thai. The Puea Thai candidate is Pathida Tantirattananond, a former member of the Provincial Administration Organisation from Kap Choeng district whereas Bhumjaithai’s candidate is Suparak Khuanha, secretary to Transport Minister Sohpon Zarun and a former MP for many years in this constituency. After getting into a fight with Bhum Jai Thai Puea Paendin were thrown out of the coalition in June at Bhum Jai Thai’s request so will be tacitly supporting the Puea Thai candidate, but as you can see the Bhum Jai Thai candidate is a former MP. Surin also borders Buriram and Newin will not want to suffer a loss. Bhum Jai Thai will also be able to count on the support of their coalition partners who came quite close in the 2007 general election. Thai Rath calls its a must-win seat for Newin. The result is likely to be close.
Nakhon Ratchasima Constituency 6: The seat will be hotly contested and the one to watch. Bhum Jai Thai will be looking to hold the seat and their candidate is the former deputy interior minister. For Puea Thai, a victory over the former deputy interior minister would strike a blow in the heart of Bhum Jai Thai and raise questions over Bhum Jai’s competitiveness in the rest of the Northeast. Puea Thai have engineered the defection of Apicha Lertpacharakamol, formerly of Puea Pandin, who placed first in the 2007 general election before a by-election in 2008 saw her lose to Boonjong. Puea Pandin Party’s de-facto leader Pairote Suwanchawee is expected to join hands with Suwat Liptapanlop, de-facto leader of the coalition Ruam Chart Pattana Party, to provide tacit support to Puea Thai.
BP: The margin of victory in each seat will also be important because a narrow victory in a by-election may not mean much particularly as more effort and resources will be focused on these by-elections than in the general election.