As regular readers will know, PPT didn’t have much interest in the gubernatorial election campaign of the last few weeks. We did post on Abhisit Vejjajiva as damaged political goods and had a comment on what was Democrat Party desperation as the polls were against them.
When all the votes were tallied, the incumbent Democrat Party Governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra won by 100,000+ votes over his Puea Thai Party opponent. Both candidates secured more than a million votes each, a feat only achieved once before by any candidate, and that was Samak Sundaravej in 2000.
As one commentator at New Mandala summed it up, about as well as any of the professional poll watchers:
Everyone got it wrong. All the pollsters (pre-election and exit) got it wrong with all predictions towards a landslide win by the Yingluck-Pongsapat PT team. Bangkok Pundit got it wrong … and this guy follows and reads only Thai polls these days. Even the eventual winner reelected Bangkok governor Sukhumband got it wrong: at a televised interview just after the election closed he was just about to choke and in not so many words was almost apologizing/expecting a loss (believing the exit polls no doubt) saying he’ll probably just return to a lowly position in the Democrat Party.
Not everyone was wrong, with the Democrat Party’s Korn Chatikavanij having predicted a Sukhumbhand victory last week.
Interestingly, the official red shirts were quick to congratulate Sukhumbhand:
UDD co-leaders congratulated Mr Sukhumband on a fair and clean victory in Bangkok’s gubernatorial elections on Sunday:
Dr Weng said, “We would like to congratulate Mr Sukhumband and welcome him again as the governor of Bangkok…. We want to thank Bangkokians for defying the rain and going out to vote. It is crucial for us to express this right because, in so doing, we strengthen democracy in Thailand.
The post adds that the red shirts, who had 12,000 monitors, considered that the polling had been “according to the rules” and with few incidents.
In addition, the “UDD co-leaders reacted positively to the marked increase in support for the Pheu Thai candidate since the last election.” The Bangkok Post also commented on this, citing Wuthisarn Tanchai of the King Prajadhipok Institute, who observed that:
Despite the Democrat victory Mr Wuthisarn noted a significant increase in the number of votes for the Pheu Thai Party in the city. Pheu Thai’s political base in Bangkok is apparently expanding and the Democrats need to be wary of the threat this poses, he said.
He added that: “Voters seemed to be split between the Democrats and Pheu Thai, with few votes going to independents.” That last point is significant as the two major parties dominate and the political division remains strong. This is shown in one of the graphs produced by Bangkok Pundit in his post-election report.
Siam Voices also has a useful post-election coverage, concluding:
Governor Sukhumbhand is the unlikely winner of the election, considering various failures during his last term – conflicts during the floods of 2011 and ending at the Futsal arena fiasco. Sukhumbhand has been given a second chance to rule the capital, but for the Democrat Party it is the very last chance.
Of course, it is also a chance for Abhisit who was probably facing major internal opposition if Sukhumbhand had lost. He hadn’t wanted Sukhumbhand to run, but when Sukhumbhand said he’d run as an independent if the party didn’t choose him, Abhisit had to back him as a split Democrat Party vote would have handed Bangkok to his rivals.
Update 1: After initially chortling about the result, it is interesting that The Nation is now taking a more sober look at the outcome. The Bangkok Post also reports that the Democrat Party is worried by the big gains made by the Puea Thai Party.
Update 2: Songkran Grachangnetara in an op-ed at the Bangkok Post: “I voted for MR Sukhumbhand because Mr Abhisit opposed his candidacy. I’m sorry, but anyone Mr Abhisit thinks doesn’t deserve to run under the Democrat banner must be doing something right. The lack of support for MR Sukumbhand’s candidacy from the bumbling leaders of his own party is nothing short of betrayal.”