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8 Years to Day After Coup Arrest, Chadchart Voted Bangkok Governor in Landslide Win

Bangkok governor-elect Chadchart Sittipunt makes a victory speech Sunday night.
Bangkok governor-elect Chadchart Sittipunt makes a victory speech Sunday night.

Eight years ago Sunday, Chadchart Sittipunt was arrested, handcuffed and detained during the 2014 coup. On May 22 he was elected democratically in a landslide as Bangkok’s next governor and foil to Thailand’s current prime minister who led the putsch.

With 100% of the votes counted, Chadchart received 1,386,769 votes, a record for any Bangkok governor’s contest. The Democrat Party’s Suchatvee Suwansawat finished a distant second with 254,723 votes. Move Forward Party candidate Wiroj Lakhanaadisorn placed third with 253,938. The count is unofficial until certified by the Election Commission.

The ongoing count confirmed opinion polls that long have showed Chadchart ahead of other candidates. Votes came from both supporters of the party the next mayor abandoned – Pheu Thai – and from the hundreds of thousands of young Thais who became eligible to vote since the last election in 2013.

“Today is a meaningful day for me personally because eight years ago, there was a coup. I was there. My head was covered and my hands tied,” Chadchart, the transport minister when Yingluck Shinawatra was deposed by the army led by current PM Prayut Chan-o-cha on May 22, 2014.

Prayut still malingers in Government House after rigging the constitution to ensure his military-backed Palang Patcharath Party triumped in the 2019 election. But voters, finally given a chance to exercise their democratic rights, repudiated Prayut’s party, which declined to run a candidate for mayor and was trounced in city council races.

With nearly 60% of the vote in, Palang Patcharath was winning in only two races. The Love Bangkok group, headed by current Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang, who Prayut appointed, also was winning only two seats.

The Democrat Party, which traditionally has led Bangkok, was leading in nine races, while Pheu Thai was ahead in 18 races and the progressive Move Forward Party in 15. New, young voters were pushing the progressive group to a historic win, although its mayoral candidate never made a race of it.

About 60% of Bangkok’s four million eligible voters turned out from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today – stone cold sober from the alcohol ban that went into effect at 6 p.m. last night until 6 p.m. today. About 57% of the vote had been counted by 9 p.m.

Chadchart initially refused to accept the obvious win until all votes were counted, but after all his opponents conceded, declared victory and told the public he would be a governor for all, not just those who voted for him or even agreed with him.

“We can disagree, but we don’t need to hate each other,” Bangkok’s 17th governor-elect said. “We can walk and move forward together. He said “true democracy” played out tonight and he will “listen to the will of the people” while reaching out to residents and be a hands-on governor.

“I won’t disappoint you,” Chadchart promised Bangkok.

Chadchart’s victory likely will bring breath of fresh air to city hall and he reflects the kind of individual Bangkokians have been looking for since MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra won by a similar landslide of 1.25 million votes in 2013.  He was fired by Prayut after opposing the coup.

“Bangkok is a city full of hope,” Chadchart said at a news conference tonight. “There are many good things here. Too bad that past events have tarnished its sparkle like an uncut diamond. I will play the role of a diamond cutter and make it shine bright again. Bangkok will become a place where every resident lives in harmony and happiness.”