Chadchart Sittipunt began his first day as Bangkok’s unofficial 17th governor with a 5 a.m. run through Lumpini Park, with reporters trying to keep up. The question is can the man who won more votes than any previous candidate keep up the pace for four years.
Chadchart campaigned on his positive vision that Bangkok is an uncut diamond, a city of hope. He brought fresh air to politics, having cast off the yoke of Thaksin Shinawatra’s Pheu Thai Party and appealing to tens of thousands who became eligible to cast votes since the last poll nine years ago. How long Chadchart’s honeymoon will last, however, is an open question.
More than 50% of Bangkok voted for Chadchart, resulting in a historic win with nearly 1.4 million votes, more than any gubernatorial candidate in Bangkok history. He won every district, showing the evenness of his support throughout the capital.
But it’s easy to see how fast the public can turn on a governor. Aswin Kwanmuang, the outgoing governor appointed by 2014 coup leader and now Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, was tagged with responsibility for last week’s school traffic and flooding. Chadchart, a former transport minister, has pledged to fix both. But the public is impatient.
Chadchart will have to make good on his 200 campaign proposals and promises, which were put on his website as a “contract” with the people. it will be a report card easy to mark.
His appeal to the “people” was undeniable as it was widespread. His transformation into an internet meme boosted his popularity with new voters. He was officially an independent, but his former affiliation with Pheu Thai has helped him keep support of a loyal voting bloc. He also refused to engaged in negative politics, which helped him as well.
Meanwhile, none of the other candidates could muster even a fifth of his support. The Democrat Party’s Suchatvee Suwansawat and Wiroj Lakkanadisorn of the Move Forward Party took only about 9% of the vote each. Former deputy governor Sakoltee Phattiyakul and Aswin finished farther behind.
Democrats’ Day Has Passed
The vote tally confirmed that the Democrats’ dominance over Bangkok is over and out. The decline began in 2019, when the party failed to win a single Bangkok seat in parliament. This time out, Suchatvee was plagued by multiple scandals and the party’s standing was hammered by a sex scandal involving its deputy leade r and compounded by the party’s failure to immediately disavow Prinn Panitchapakdi.
The result? Suchatvee took less than 10% of the vote in a contest that former Democrat governor MR Sukhumband Paribatra took 47.5% vote of in 2013.
In the city council race, the Democrats scored just eight of 50 seats. Pheu Thai and the progressive Move Forward will dominate the council.
Party leader and Commerce Minister Jurin Laksanawisit may argue that he did better than former prime minister Abhisit Vejjajiva in 2019, but both Democrat politicians and voters may now question what the future is for the group. Could a breakup be far behind?
Conservatives also have a lot of soul searching to do. Sakoltee did better than his former boss, Aswin, but both were repudiated by voters, seen as tools of the 2014 junta-turned-government. Both incumbents took less than 17% of the vote combined.
The military-backed Palang Pracharath did not run a candidate in the mayoral race and was trounced in the city council elections, winning only two seats. It’s yet another warning that for the future. If the next national election goes badly for the army’s party, what’s to stop another coup or constitutional rewrite?
A Fresh City Council
With the military and conservative candidates relegated on the city council, the next four years will see policy divided between Pheu Thai and Move Forward. Chadchart will have plenty of allies on the council.
Opposition parties likely will capture a majority of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration Council seats, with Pheu Thai grabbing 19 and Move Forward 15. The new Thai Sang Thai party likely won three seats.
So while Pheu Thai failed to garner any mayoral support, its grassroots base remains strong in many places. But as toxic as Thaksin’s party to many Bangkokians, the military ruling party is even more so. And those looking beyond confrontational politics not only chose independent Chadchart, but the young progressives of Move Forward for city council.