Dems at ease with poor poll showing

PHEU THAI PULLS PONGSAPAT BACK IN LINE

Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva yesterday shrugged off the latest Bangkok governor opinion poll which shows Democrat candidate MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra in second place.

LONG ROAD AHEAD: Independent Bangkok governor candidate Suharit Siamwalla waves to shoppers while crossing the road in front of Old Siam Plaza on the first day of his ‘one million steps’ campaign to explore the city’s problems.

Pheu Thai Party candidate Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen sits five points ahead of his rival one month from the March 3 election, according to the poll.

Mr Abhisit said the survey results did not worry him or the Democrat candidate.

"There is almost a month to go before election day. Anything is possible," he said.

MR Sukhumbhand is committed to implementing his campaign pledges, Mr Abhisit said. Those include increasing green space in the city by 5,000 rai and creating several dog parks.

Based on the latest Suan Dusit Poll of 3,214 voters, released yesterday, Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen still leads the governor race with 41% of respondents saying they would vote for him.

A total of 36.12% of voters said they would cast ballots for MR Sukhumbhand.

Meanwhile, Pol Gen Pongsapat is being told to rein himself in and start toeing the party line, a Pheu Thai source said yesterday.

The candidate has so far directed his own campaign and has occasionally diverted from the agreed-upon itinerary, the source said.

"That could upset voters, affecting his popularity. So he will have to follow the party's campaign itinerary from now on," the source said.

"He may have to walk all day and night. He can't just do as he pleases."

Pheu Thai plans to hold 150 small election rallies across 50 constituencies to help Pol Gen Pongsapat woo voters.

The source said more than 20,000 volunteers have been recruited to observe and monitor voting activities on election day for signs of irregularities.

The volunteers are divided into three groups. The first group will be deployed across all 6,548 polling stations citywide as party representatives.

The Election Commission requires governor candidates to assign observers to polling booths on election day.

The observers will receive training next week to bring them up to speed on election laws, the party source said. They will also be trained to operate cameras and other recording devices.

The second group of volunteers will be recruited by the United Front for Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD), and will also help monitor activities at polling stations.

The third group will be selected by the Pheu Thai Party to monitor the vote count.

UDD leader Jatuporn Prompan said the red shirts would act as "eyes and ears" to make sure the election is clean.

"The outcome of a clean and fair election reflects the true political landscape. What we are worried about most is electoral fraud," he said.

Mr Jatuporn said Bangkok is a unique constituency that has rarely been dominated by a single political party or individual candidate.

Mr Jatuporn has been assigned as one of Pol Gen Pongsapat's key campaigners.

Meanwhile, independent candidate Suharit Siamwalla kicked off his "one million steps" campaign yesterday.

Beginning from Victory Monument, Mr Suharit walked through Phra Nakhon district, Siam Square, and Chatuchak market, counting more than 30,000 steps on his first day.

On his "Vote Suharit" Facebook page, the governor candidate is posting pictures of problems he encounters along his walk, such as rubbish and street congestion.

"I took pictures of problems I discovered. I will come back to fix these problems," he said.

Mr Suharit, who is also a renowned electronic DJ, invited city residents to post photos on his page to highlight the city's problems.

He said his campaign was targeting undecided voters.

SHOPPING FOR VOTES: Democrat Party candidate MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra, second left, takes his Bangkok governor election campaign to Central Bang Na shopping mall. He is joined by chief campaign adviser Chuan Leekpai and Democrat MPs.

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Writer: Aekarach Sattaburuth & Paritta Wangkiat