Bangkok’s governor won a second term Sunday in an election that was overshadowed by Thailand’s national politics and seen as a major test for his Democrat party.
The gubernatorial election was Bangkok’s first since it was paralyzed by deadly anti-government protests in 2010. The Red Shirt protesters – mostly rural-based supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra – were demanding fresh elections from then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat party.
Bangkok is one of the few strongholds that the Democrats did not lose to the Pheu Thai party, led by Thaksin’s sister and current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in the 2011 general election, thanks to the capital’s pro-establishment middle class and elite voters.
The Democrats have ruled Bangkok for the past nine years, but they found themselves in a fight with Pheu Thai in a gubernatorial election that was seen as a barometer of their relevance in Thai politics.
The governor’s race also highlighted the political divisiveness that has wracked Thailand for much of the past eight years, with the results showing that there is still a major divide.
The rift between the ruling and the opposition party was apparent during Sukhumbhand’s first term, especially during a 2011 flooding crisis that crippled parts of Bangkok.
Yingluck said after Pongsapat conceded defeat Sunday that the ruling party would have to re-evaluate its performance in Bangkok’s constituencies. She said the government would help the Democrats serve the city’s residents.
In his victory speech, Sukhumbhand, 60, said he was “ready to work seamlessly with the government.”
Thailand’s main opposition party won an election for the governor of Bangkok on Sunday, dealing a surprise blow to the ruling party of exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra which had hoped to win the city and cement its supremacy.
Incumbent governor and Democrat Party member Sukhumbhand Paribatra beat the candidate of Thaksin’s Puea Thai Party, winning almost half the vote, the city administration said as the count neared completion.
“The Democrats won because a large part of Bangkok were scared of Puea Thai holding too much power,” political analyst Kan Yuenyong at Siam Intelligence Unit, told Reuters.
“In the long-term, Thailand is heading towards a system ruled by two main political parties.“
The victory provides a boost to opposition leader Abhisit Vejjajiva even as the narrow margin signaled gains for Yingluck in Bangkok. The opposition had won the past three governor contests dating back to 2004 by margins of more than 10 percentage points, and took more than 75 percent of the capital’s seats in the past two nationwide elections.
Yingluck congratulated Sukhumbhand on his victory and pledged to cooperate with him.
“Even though our votes were not enough to become governor, I and the party are still ready to serve Bangkok people,” she told supporters in a briefing with Pongsapat. “I am ready to work with the governor seamlessly.”
The Bangkok Post:
“I want to thank Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra [of the Pheu Thai Party] who has promised that I’ll be able to work seamlessly with the government.
“I would like to take this opportunity to invite about 800,000 Bangkokians who did not cast their votes today to help build Bangkok with me.
“I promise you that I’ll work harder and be more committed and that I’ll serve the people of Bangkok – the city I love, where I was born and raised, and will die,” said the re-elected governor.
NOTE: Each time, BP looks there seems a slight adjustment in the figures and there are still unofficial figures so votes and % may slightly differ from final results. The unaccounted is no votes, spoilt votes etc.
BP: The gap is just under 180,000 votes or around 6.5%. In comparison with the previous 4 elections:
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. Sources for 2013 are as above. For previous elections, all figures from Wikipedia.
NOTE: This % for 2013 differs from chart above as didn’t include No vote and spoilt votes because understand they were not included in figures for previous elections so for comparison purposes haven’t included.
A. Sukhumbhand’s 1,256,231 votes is the highest number of votes for any candidate, but then again Pongsapat’s 1,077,899 votes is the second highest ever.
B. Sukhumbhand received 321,171 more votes than he got in 2009, but then again Pongsapat got 465,465 more votes than Puea Thai’s candidate received in 2009.
C. Sukhumbhand also increased his share of the vote.
D. Pongsapat’s 1,077,899 votes or 39.69% is the most by any pro-Thaksin party candidate. It beats the previous best by 458,095 (that is Paveena in 2004). The previous highest % was Yuranan in 2009 with 29.72% .
E. This is also the closest election in terms of narrowest margin (180,000 vs 292,402 in 2004) or % (6.5% vs 12.3% in 2004).
F. The vote for independents drops to less than 300,000 votes or 11.28%. As is happening nationally, Thailand is becoming more of a two-party system.
G. Sukhumbhand’s winning percentage appears to be the most of any candidate/Democrat in the previous 5 elections (DISCLAIMER: He is only very marginally ahead of Apirak in 2004 ( 45.9%) and previous years have not all been collated from the same source), but Pongsapat’s losing % percentage was the highest losing percentage as well.
NOTE: Will look at the “why” and “what the victory means” in a separate post(s).