The Pheu Thai Party's executive committee Sunday chose Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen as the party's candidate for the Bangkok governor election in a unanimous decision.
However, analysts predict a tough fight ahead for the deputy national police chief and secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board (ONCB).
Pol Gen Pongsapat will run against incumbent Sukhumbhand Paribatra, the Democrat Party's nominee.
Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, director of Sripathum University' policy watch and research centre, said MR Sukhumbhand has an edge over his Pheu Thai rival, as the Democrat Party enjoys a large support base in the city.
The Democrats have more MPs and more city and district councillors than Pheu Thai in Bangkok, he said.
However, Mr Somchai said Pol Gen Pongsapat still has a chance of winning the election if he makes the most of his "freshness".
He enjoys a clean track record and his public relations work for the police force have made him a household name.
MR Sukhumbhand has been criticised for botching the construction of the Bangkok Futsal Arena and is now embroiled in legal wrangles over the skytrain contract extension.
Pheu Thai spokesman Prompong Nopparit said Sunday Pol Gen Pongsapat was the only person formally nominated to contest the race under the Pheu Thai banner.
Pheu Thai last year divided the country's five regions into 19 zones, with a party minister in charge of ensuring policy implementation and cooperation among MPs in each zone. Pol Gen Pongsapat was the only person nominated to the executive committee by the committees in the three zones comprising Bangkok, Mr Prompong said.
Pol Lt Col Pattanond Kiatpaiboon, a duty officer at the Royal Thai Police, said Pol Gen Pongsapat had been informed about the decision.
He will today submit his resignation as deputy national police chief to national police chief Adul Saengsingkaew, and will also resign from the ONCB.
The Pheu Thai meeting also agreed to appoint party secretary-general Phumtham Vechayachai as director of the party's election centre. Former veteran politician Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan will draw up policies for the campaign.
Pol Gen Pongsapat will apply for Pheu Thai membership tomorrow and the party will officially announce his candidacy on that day, Mr Phumtham said. The candidate will address the public, outlining his vision as a political leader.
Mr Prompong said the meeting also decided the party would issue an order forbidding members who hold political office from helping Pol Gen Pongsapat's election campaign.
The decision is intended to deter accusations of a lack of neutrality and of charges that they are being distracted from their work.
Democrat spokesman Chavanond Intarakomalyasut Sunday welcomed Pol Gen Pongsapat's candidacy.
He said Pol Gen Pongsapat is a fresh face and a capable person who would spice up the election.
Prominent political scientist Sukhum Nualskul said Pheu Thai decided to field Pol Gen Pongsapat because he is popular with Bangkok residents. By contrast, most Pheu Thai members are well known only in the provinces.
Mr Somchai said the Democrats have had experience in running Bangkok for almost a decade since Apirak Kosayodhin became governor in 2004.
The Democrats have the connections necessary to run Bangkok while Pheu Thai has never had any experience running the city, Mr Somchai said.
He said Bangkok residents tend to choose the candidate of the ruling political party so the governor can work well with the government.
But sometimes residents want a governor who is not a candidate from the ruling party, to maintain a balance of power against the government.
Residents know the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has a degree of independence and has its own budget, and so can counter the power of the government, Mr Somchai said.
He said Pheu Thai excels at churning out populist policies that appeal to the public at the national level, but when it comes to local politics, the party comes up short.
Meanwhile, MR Sukhumbhand will start his campaign at Thian Fah Foundation Hospital in Yaowarat, or Chinatown, at 3pm today to promote boosting the city's tourism industry.
He will meet voters along the route leading to Wat Trai Mit Witthayaram.
About the author
- Writer: Supoj Wancharoen