Current Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra is running for a second term, and .... Pic: AP.

Current Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra is running for a second term, and is seen as a solid candidate for the Democrats. Pic: AP.

On March 3, Bangkokians will go to the polls to vote. There are three main candidates. They are Pongsapat Pongcharoen (Pheu Thai),  Sukhumbhand Paribatra (Democrat Party), and Pol Gen Seripisut Temiyaves (Independent).

BP will have some analysis of the race in the coming weeks, as time permits.

This post will look at the four previous gubernatorial elections to see what we can glean from them together with some analysis of the state of play:*

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NOTE: Ind = Independent; Dem = Democrat Party candidate; and TS = candidate of the pro-Thaksin party whether it is Thai Rak Thai, PPP, or Puea Thai. This also includes Pavena who was an independent in 2004, but was unofficially backed by Thai Rak Thai. All figures from Wikipedia. BP hasn’t included all the candidates, just the major ones, depending on what information is available. The others or the total independent % (and number of votes) should be roughly accurate within one-tenth of a percent, but not all figures were available so used Excel had to calculate based on the figures available.

BP: So it was a bit of surprise at the time that the Democrats did so badly, but it was coming at a time when the Democrats were in national government and were losing support dramatically (Thai Rak Thai won a plurality in 2001 election) and their candidate was not particularly well-liked. Samak’s margin of victory was no doubt helped by Democrats who really didn’t want the Thai Rak Thai-backed Sudarat to win so many held their noses and voted for Samak. It should be noted only the following year, Thai Rak Thai won two-thirds of the Bangkok constituency seats in the national election.

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BP: While Pavena was not an actual Thai Rak Thai candidate, she did have tacit support from the party who didn’t send a candidate. The Democrats sent a fresh-faced political novice of Apirak who had been a business executive. While Thai Rak Thai would do very well in the 2005 general election winning 32 out of 36 constituency seats in Bangkok, Democrat Party candidate comfortably won the 2004 gubernatorial race in Bangkok.

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BP: Some strong independents probably didn’t help the pro-Thaksin PPP vote, but the reality was the PPP candidate was not strong and Apirak had been reasonably effective in his first term as Governor.

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BP: In the end, it was not a close race. Yuranun was a well-known Thai entertainment figure, but he didn’t have the political experience of Sukhumbhand who was a very safe candidate for the Democrats. The independents probably drew away votes from both candidates.

Now, a chart of all 4 races:

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1. As noted the 2000 race is a bit of anomaly for the Democrats. In the three races since then, the Democrat Party candidate has received between 900,000 and 1,000,000 votes each time.

2. For the pro-Thaksin party candidate, no matter what is happening nationally (remembering that in 2001 and 2005 national elections, Thai Rak Thai won a clear majority of constituency seats in Bangkok), the pro-Thaksin party candidate received between 520,000-620,000 votes in the 4 elections. Even has support for Thai Rak Thai in Bangkok dropped, it doesn’t appear to have changed the level of support they have received in the gubernatorial election.

3. The independent vote has dropped over time and will probably drop again this time to less than 400,000 unless there is some dramatic change.

4. The closest race was in 2004, but even then the margin of victory for the Democrat Party over the pro-Thaksin candidate was over 292,000 votes. Based on history, it would be an upset if Puea Thai were to win the 2013 race. The Democrats have a natural advantage. It will be the margin of victory which will be the thing to watch. Puea Thai will be aiming to keep it within 100,000 votes whereas the Democrats will want it to exceed 200,000 votes.

5. BP would rate Sukhumbhand’s first term as average, but he is a relatively safe and solid candidate for the Democrats. He is a well-known commodity and rarely says something stupid. He is also not a hated figure amongst the red shirts/pro-Thaksin side – in fact, of all the Democrats he really put his neck on the line in 2010 to negotiate an outcome – see here and here. He won’t cause a surge in Puea Thai voters to go to the polls which is one thing that Puea Thai would need to win. Having said that, he won’t cause a surge of Democrat voters to go to the polls either. Some younger or disillusioned Democrat supporters will probably vote for Seripisut or the other independents, but they can do this safe in the knowledge that Sukhumbhand  – and not someone supported by Thaksin – will still win.

*Originally this graph named the Democrat candidate as Wanasthana Sajakul. That is the person’s current name, but when they ran as a candidate their name was actually Thawatchai Sajakul so have corrected the graph.