Dems fret over Pheu Thai gains
The large vote gains made by the Pheu Thai Party in the Bangkok governor election are a sign the Democrats have much more work to do, party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva says.
- Published: 5/03/2013 at 12:00 AM
- Newspaper section: topstories
Bangkok governor-elect Sukhumbhand Paribatra gives a thumbs up to voters as he and key Democrat figures take a city tour to thank Bangkok residents for their votes in Sunday’s election. From left to right, Korn Chatikavanij, Apirak Kosayodhin, Wallop Suwandee, MR Sukhumbhand, Ong-art Klampaibul, Abhisit Vejjajiva and Panich Vikitsreth. APICHART JINAKUL
Democrat candidate and poll victor Sukhumbhand Paribatra won 1,256,349 votes, the highest ever recorded in a city election.
The governor-elect received 2 per cent more votes than he did in the 2009 election, but Pheu Thai Party candidate Pongsapat Pongcharoen took 1,077,899 votes, 10 per cent more votes than Pheu Thai's 2009 candidate, Yuranant Pamornmontri.
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Mr Abhisit attributed Pheu Thai's increase in support to voters who were previously backers of independent candidates.
A Democrat Party insider, however, admitted the substantial increase in the votes for the Pheu Thai candidate _ about 400,000 more than in 2009 _ was worrying Democrat executives.
"It tells us that Pheu Thai has succeeded in consolidating the anti-Democrat votes and has brought them into the fold," the Bangkok MP said.
He said Sunday's election was not ordinary.
"It was more of a referendum, a venue for Bangkok residents to choose sides based on their political inclinations as influenced by national politics," the source said.
Mr Abhisit said Monday the party is thankful it has been entrusted to govern the city for a fourth consecutive term but it realises there are many things it needs to do better, both in the administration of Bangkok and the running of its own party.
"I admit the Bangkok governor race was a hard-fought one," Mr Abhisit said in his talk show programme broadcast on Blue Sky Channel.
"I have received several messages from our supporters who told me we need to improve many things," Mr Abhisit said.
"I want to emphasise that I have heard them all and will try to make everything better," he said in a rare admission that the country's oldest political party needs to do some soul-searching.
Mr Abhisit said he spoke privately with MR Sukhumbhand ahead of Sunday's victory announcement. He said MR Sukhumbhand agreed the task ahead will be tough.
Almost every opinion poll leading up to the election, including exit polls, pointed to a victory by his main rival, Pol Gen Pongsapat.
Noppadon Pattama, a legal adviser to former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said the race only tipped toward the Democrats during the last few days of the campaign.
He said the Democrats seized on rhetoric that the Pheu Thai Party, which governs the country, would monopolise power if it took City Hall.
Mr Abhisit rejected the notion that MR Sukhumbhand won on a platform of fear. He said the election showed that voters want to see a balance of power in politics.
The Pheu Thai-led government should consider the city poll results carefully and honour the will of the voters, Mr Abhisit said.
The Democrat Party source said MR Sukhumbhand cannot afford to make mistakes in his second term because it would erode the party's popularity in the capital as well as nationwide.
During the Democrats' candidate selection process, secretary-general Chalermchai Sri-on opposed fielding MR Sukhumbhand for re-election.
MR Sukhumbhand's poll triumph will do little to solve that internal rift in the party, the source said.
It is expected the party leadership will have to do something about Mr Chalermchai, he added.
Unimpressed with MR Sukhumbhand's performance during his previous term as governor, Mr Chalermchai said voters chose MR Sukhumbhand out of loyalty to the party.
Mr Chalermchai had supported deputy party leader Korn Chatikavanij.
Mr Chalermchai's absence from the campaign has reportedly upset some party members, prompting calls for him to resign.
The source said the party leadership is expected to have a discussion with Mr Chalermchai to resolve the differences before its general assembly next month. Mr Abhisit said it will take a week or two before the party can unveil its team of deputy Bangkok governors. In the running are the campaign director Ong-art Klampaibul, and former deputy governors Panich Vikitsreth and Samart Ratchapolsitte.
About the author
- Writer: Manop Thip-Osod & Aekarach Sattaburuth