Does Bangkok deserve to be governed by one of the 24 people running around town putting on a daily show of how they love the city and are determined to turn it into the greenest, safest, most beautiful and dynamic place that never sleeps or suffers a dull moment?
A recent poll by the National Institute of Development Administration (Nida) may give us some insights. Conducted last week when the Bangkok governor election was at its mid-way point, the survey found that as many as 40% of voters remained undecided on which candidate they will choose as their next governor.
Of the undecided voters, 83% said they were still considering the candidates' policy platforms while almost 9% said they were not particularly inspired with any of them.
As a voter myself, I would say I have considered the candidates and their policies and I am not impressed with any of the contenders either.
I am not saying the candidates are no good. Independent candidate Suharit Siamwalla, for example, has shown the audacity to appeal to people who want something different from their governor even though it's not quite clear how he will tap all those unorganised, alternative votes. That he dared to stand up and offer himself as a choice despite his slim chances has added a notable quality to this election.
The vision of another independent candidate, Kosit Suvinijit, in making sure Bangkok is safe around the clock is one that hits home, especially for a woman voter like myself. If he would just hold on to this proposal and show how he would "leave no broken window" instead of pandering to popular sentiment by including some vague ideas about Bangkok being a hub of buzzwords _ education, economy and Asean integration _ he could offer a stronger message and possibly convince more voters to pick him.
The problem with the Bangkok election, however, is that none of the candidates has really managed to show clear leadership. At issue is not a lack of vision. Indeed, we in Bangkok have been inundated with promises, many of them so grandiose and stretched so far into the future that we feel they have nothing to do with us who live in the city right here and now.
The problem is a lack of inspiration. So far, none of the contestants has managed to display clearly and indisputably that he or she has the qualities that people in Bangkok should entrust with their votes, and their future for the next four years.
Since most opinion polls have indicated this election is basically a two-horse race between the party-sponsored candidates Sukhumbhand Paribatra from the Democrat Party and Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen from Pheu Thai, a feeling that the two main parties have failed Bangkok voters has taken root.
MR Sukhumbhand has noted on many occasions that it's demanding for a veteran to seek a second term as there are bound to be "wounds" that need to be explained and the boredom factor that must be overcome.
While I can't say that he has not tried hard, I have to admit that I find his campaign more of a love affair, or lack thereof, between him and his Democrat Party than a yearning to turn Bangkok into something better.
Exactly what he is proposing I don't know. A centre for Asean connectivity? What is that?
What's worse for MR Sukhumbhand's campaign is how it exudes the feeling of entitlement. If could be because he is a former governor and can't shake off the I-know-best air yet. Also, I think MR Sukhumbhand may have felt that he accomplished a major task when he was able to convince his seemingly hesitant party to field him for a second time. His campaign has a rather haughty, you-must-love-me quality about it.
While Pol Gen Pongsapat is leading the race in most opinion polls, what we have seen so far is what he has been best known for throughout his career _ popularity stunt shows.
Do I want a governor who will tackle the city's traffic problems? I will be honest and say right here that I don't expect such a massive issue to be solved in the next four years. But do I want the next governor to try to solve it by offering free bus rides or by showing off his bus-driving skills from time to time? I don't think that fits the description of an efficient Bangkok governor either.
Despite the lacklustre performances all round, Bangkok will surely see a new governor in less than a month but probably not a winner for itself.
Atiya Achakulwisut is Deputy Editor, Bangkok Post.
About the author
- Writer: Atiya Achakulwisut
Position: Deputy Editor (Day)