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Thailand’s Progressives Rebound in Local Elections, Winning 38 Mayorships

Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit rallies voters before Sunday's SAO elections
Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit rallies voters before Sunday's SAO elections

After getting crushed in last year’s provincial elections, Thailand’s progressives bounced back in this weekend’s local polls, winning 38 mayorships and council seats.

Progressive Movement leader Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit said Monday that party members won 19.4 percent of the 196 races contested. The youngest new mayor elected was only 35 with the oldest just 53, a notable shift from the traditional geriatric nature of local politics.

Three women were the 38 elected in Sunday’s Subdistrict Administrative Organization elections and 23 had little or no previous political experience.

In December’s provincial administrative organization elections, Move Forward, the successor to the now-banned Future Forward Party, suffered a crushing defeat across the 52 provinces where it fielded candidates for PAO presidents and council members.

The party ran more than 1,000 candidates but lost every one of its 42 races for PAO president and won only 55 seats in 18 provinces for provincial councils.

Thanathorn said it was significant that 15 percent of the seats won Sunday by progressives were in rural areas, away from the traditional urban progressive strongholds.

“These are areas where the proportion of “new generation” younger people is smaller. Many people said (rural voters) were not our target audience and that they didn’t use social media.

“Many people insulted us, thinking we couldn’t do it. But the results of the elections showed that people’s acceptance of the progressive movement is growing more and more.”

Despite past defeats, Thanathorn said every election is a fresh start, adding that the movement also is eyeing the mayor’s position in Pattaya – whenever the election finally is held – the stronghold of the Kunplome can.

However, the movement will skip the Bangkok gubernatorial election next year, to avoid running against the Move Forward Party’s candidate.