Nobody punches Judy. Nobody _ at least not now. That's why Pongsapat "Judy" Pongcharoen is leading the latest Abac poll. And why not?
The Pheu Thai Party candidate is out-running his closest rival, MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra of the Democrat Party as far as form is concerned.
He gave a garbage collector a hand one day. Next, he drove a BMTA bus (without a driver's licence for public transport).
He also took a free bus from Sanam Pao to the Victory Monument to get the feeling of other passengers' problems (although it's just a few bus stops).
More will definitely come from him as the campaign for a new Bangkok governor has more than a month to go. Train and plane passengers had better watch out when he visits Hua Lamphong station and Don Mueang airport.
For his part so far, MR Sukhumbhand has patted the back of a kid during a visit to Nong Chok district.
He ate khao lam, sticky rice cooked in a bamboo tube, and offered to help a vendor sell curry to customers. Of course, he doesn't seem to be able to do what Pol Gen Pongsapat is doing.
That is why Pol Gen Pongsapat came first in a poll by Assumption University released last Thursday when pollsters asked people about their impressions of the candidates. He scored 43.6%, 10 percentage points more than the Democrat contender.
The result at this stage means very little and really cannot be used as an indicator, as the two, who are the most favoured of all 25 candidates, are doing everything possible to impress voters and score photo ops.
Aside from the gimmicks, the two candidates share one thing. Voters preparing to go to the polling stations on March 3 are left wondering how Bangkok will change if either of them comes out as the winner that day.
They are offering cheaper BTS rides, better free bus services, more homes for the elderly. They might have a knockout punch waiting, and will probably unveil that shortly before the campaign deadline to keep their opponents at bay.
Right at the bottom of the Abac poll were two independent runners, one of them being Suharit Siamwalla. He looks a bit weird; he is a very untypical politician. But his short and simple ideas on what to do are the answers that many people living in the capital need _ like better safety for pedestrians and a plan to promote bicycling.
Voters never see his banners on the streets.
His preference is social media because he believes that people in Bangkok are annoyed at those roadside ads.
Still, he forgets that many middle-class and working class Bangkokians do not regard Facebook, Twitter or other new media outlets as part of their lives.
Mr Suharit is banking on his fans following his radio programme and is tapping young voters, especially first-timers, who want to try something new at City Hall.
His street-level campaign to be launched on Thursday could give him more votes.
But it is bound to fall far short of the 1 million vote goal if his ideas cannot be clearly delivered. He has to convince Bangkokians that a new kid on the block with no experience in politics at all can lead the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration with no political back-up.
Like other independent contenders, Mr Suharit started the campaign as an underdog. Pol Gen Pongsapat and MR Sukhumbhand each has at least 400,000 votes of party loyalists already in the bag. But there are some 3 million more out there who can go to either party, or other ways. It is up to Mr Suharit to tap that pool of voters.
Mr Suharit is facing an uphill battle but he has nothing to lose given the many predictions that he will get less than 100,000 votes. At least he is showing voters the substance of his platform.
Hopefully, as the campaign churns on, Mr Suharit will not become frustrated and desperate so that he has to turn to old-fashioned campaigning to lure more votes. By that time, all of the usual gimmicks will have been used by his opponents. Driving a public bus, eating khao lam ... and whatever else.
Saritdet Marukatat is Digital Media News Editor, Bangkok Post
About the author
- Writer: Saritdet Marukatat
Position: Opinion-Editorial Pages Editor