PM denies meddling with pollster

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra has denied government interference in the work of Suan Dusit Poll with the aim of helping Pongsapat Pongcharoen, the Pheu Thai Party candidate in the Bangkok governor election.

  • Published: 9/02/2013 at 04:01 PM
  • Newspaper section: topstories

Ms Yingluck said on Saturday that polls by various organisations all showed Pol Gen Pongsapat leading in the race against Democrat MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra for the March 3 election.

She said all parties concerned should respect the results of opinion surveys seeking views from people without any hidden agenda.

Veteran journalist Manit Suksomchit recently resigned as the Suan Dusit Rajabhat University Council chairman, claiming the university's surveys were rigged to please the government.

Mr Manit said he had finally had enough when Suan Dusit Poll released the results of a survey in which people were asked which politician they wished to survive if the world ended. Prime Minister Yingluck topped the list.

In the current Bangkok governor race, however, the three main polling organisations all report fairly consistent results.

In the most recent Dusit Poll released on Thursday, Pol Gen Pongsapat was favoured by 42.6% of voters and MR Sukhumbhand by 34.3%. In a Dusit Poll released on Feb 2, the Pheu Thai candidate had 41% and the Democrat 36%.

An Abac Poll, also released on Thursday, showed Pol Gen Pongsapat with 42% support and MR Sukhumbhand with 33%, similar to its results of a week earlier.

Both the Dusit and Abac polls show a low number of undecided voters, just 10-15%, which has drawn some scepticism.

By contrast, a Jan 30 Nida Poll by the National Institute of Development Administration reported 48% of respondents undecided. But it also showed Pol Gen Pongsapat ahead with 23.8% against 19.2% for his Democrat rival.

Ms Yingluck also denied accusations by the Democrats that police were stepping up legal cases against key members of the opposition party in order to discredit it during the Bangkok campaign.

She was referring to a DSI investigation into alleged corruption in a multi-billion-baht project to build police stations while the Democrats were in power. Former deputy premier Suthep Thaugsuban, who oversaw the police at the time, has been singled out for his role in the case.

The Democrats, not to be outdone, believe Pol Gen Pongsapat may have some questions to answer about the construction project because he was on the committee that drew up the terms of reference for the bid. It was won by a single contractor alleged to be linked to be an influential politician. Very little of the work has been completed.

The prime minister, meanwhile, was content to stay above the fray. She called on the "silent majority" of voters to turn out to cast ballots in large numbers in Bangkok. Ultimately, she said, it would be their decision whether Pol Gen Pongsapat deserved to run the city.

Pheu Thai deputy spokesman Jirayu Huangsap, discussing allegations of interference in opinion surveys, said no one could prohibit pollsters from carrying out their surveys, unless it is stipulated by the law.

Mr Jirayu said he did not believe the pollsters at various universities would conduct polls to serve the demands of any political party.

They have been carrying out surveys for decades and would not allow polls on the Bangkok governor election to destroy their reputation, he added.

Meanwhile, Suan Dusit Poll on Saturday released the results of a survey with a new twist: it talked to people who plan not to vote. For the record, they said they were bored with politics.

The opinions were gathered between Feb 4 and 8 from 414 eligible voters in Bangkok who intended not to cast ballots on March 3.

Asked why they would not vote, 35.3% said there were tired of politics, and 29.4% said they were not free or it was inconvenient to do so. Another 17.65% said they did not know which candidate to vote for or did not like any of the candidates; 11.77% believed it's a waste of time, and 5.9% said they had problems with documents.

The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) has set an ambitious voter turnout target of 70% next month.

Only 51% of eligible voters cast ballots in the 2009 election that brought MR Sukhumbhand to office. That vote was held just a few months after the 2008 poll won by Apirak Kosayodhin, who stepped down in the face of an investigation into fire truck procurement. It attracted a 54.2% voter turnout.

When the Dusit Poll asked respondents what it would take to change their minds and get them to vote, 34.8% said more publicity campaigns on the gubernatorial election; 26.1% said voters should be told what benefits they would gain from the election; and 17.4% said celebrities should be used to encourage voters to turn out.

Slightly more than 13% said the candidates should propose new ideas, especially ways to improve people's living standards. As well, 8.7% said all candidates must run strictly in line with the rules and regulations and show their sincerity in working for Bangkok people.

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