Online reaction shows political rifts remain

Social media abuzz as city's fate takes shape

Social media, websites and chat rooms saw traffic jump sharply as voters offered snap opinions over the re-election of Sukhumbhand Paribatra as Bangkok governor.

Moderate voices faced off against more partisan voters, an indication that the divide in political philosophies and sympathies among the public remains as wide as ever.

On MR Sukhumbhand's Facebook page, a user with the name Goong Pengboon said she was incredulous how Bangkok residents could vote for Pheu Thai candidate Pongsapat Pongcharoen.

"Some are voting for a power pole. Why are some people in Bangkok so stupid? I'm so happy that [MR Sukhumbhand] beat a power pole that helped burn the city," she wrote, referring to the 2010 riots by the pro-Thaksin Shinawatra red shirts against the then-Democrat government.

A young woman with an injured leg inserts her folded ballot sheet into the ballot box at a polling station in Chatuchak district. APICHIT JINAKUL

Another user, Witsanu Yoota, quickly chimed in. "Don't call other people stupid ... criticising other people will only make you stupid," he wrote.

Others sought to offer more constructive criticism, with Sasin Chalermlarp praising MR Sukhumbhand's management style within City Hall but suggesting the governor needed to improve and modernise his communications strategy, particularly in speaking directly to the public.

A Facebook user under the name Gho Chelsea Paradise voiced a thought similar to an observation by several political strategists _ the victory was driven more by voter preferences over the candidates, rather than their supporting national parties. "You have won like a true winner. I am not a particular fan of the Democrats, although I like certain members. But you won in style," he said.

Pol Gen Pongsapat's own Facebook page was closed prior to yesterday's poll, for fear of breaking election laws.

But one supporter writing on Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's Facebook page said the governor election hardly represented the will of the country.

"Please tell Mr Pongsapat that I really supported his campaign and wanted him and Pheu Thai to win. I think many others feel the same. This was just an election in Bangkok _ Thailand has 77 provinces, and the other 76 have plenty of people who support you, the prime minister and Pheu Thai," wrote NuNam ZGirl.

For other runner-up candidates, supporters offered words of condolences.

"At least one hundred thousand people voted for you. Take heart," wrote Nisa Dent on independent candidate Sereepisuth Temeeyaves' Facebook page.

‘‘ The rain posed an obstacle for people who intended to vote. I insist the Bangkok governor election should be free from the influence of national politics— otherwise, capable people will never stand a chance. SEREEPISUT TEMIYAVEJ

Supporter Pornsiri Satitsatien said the third-place spot by Pol Gen Sereepisuth was hardly insignificant, and voiced disappointment the former police chief could not pull off an upset victory.

"It's clear that there was inequity and injustice in this election. Independent parties are at a huge disadvantage," she wrote.

Independent candidate Suharit Siamwalla thanked his supporters for their efforts during the campaign.

"I'm proud to having done my duty to the best of my ability," he wrote on his fan page.

Mr Suharit, a 46-year-old DJ and singer, attracted some of the more bizarre Facebook posts among the various candidates.

"My apologies for not voting for you, but it was necessary," wrote Sem Atisoontornkul.

Fan Gikz Mj took a more pragmatic position. "Everyone knows Thailand cannot change overnight. But you are the first step," she wrote.

Mana Treerayapiwat, a lecturer in social media at the University of the Thai Chamber of Commerce, said social media has become an important tool in the political arena as a means for the public to directly interact with their leaders.

He said the candidates should also continue their social media platforms to continue to engage supporters.

"Social media is a tool that can be used to directly engage the public, where you can receive the actual views of the people much better than say viewpoints filtered through the civil service," Mr Mana said.

"But I think that after the election, both the candidates and the winner will leave social media to their teams to make an occasional post. It's up to the public to join together to urge [politicians] to stay engaged."

Voters leave a polling station in Suan Luang district as heavy rain begins to fall. PANUMAS SANGUANWONG

A man cuts up a campaign poster belonging to Pheu Thai Party candidate Pongsapat Pongcharoen on Ratchadaphisek Road after the election finished yesterday. PATTARAPONG CHATPATTARASILL

‘‘ Right now, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Line, Instagram or websites, the Pheu Thai MPs have all gone silent. Tomorrow Bangkok will be the same. Nothing has changed. RAKTHAILANDPARTYLEADERCHUWITKAMOLVISIT

‘‘ The Pheu Thai Party and government will gladly support the Bangkok governor and is willing to seamlessly work with MRSukhumbhand. PRIME MINISTER YINGLUCK SHINAWATRA

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