Main rivals say Don Muang too close to call

The Don Muang by-election tomorrow will be a very tight competition, key Pheu Thai and Democrat figures have predicted.

The Democrats’ Tankhun Jitt-itsara greets his supporters at the big party rally held at the Kosum Ruamjai market in Don Muang district yesterday. The gathering was attended by many Democrat heavyweights including leader Abhisit Vejjajiva. APICHIT JINAKUL

Citing a Pheu Thai assessment, party-list-MP Apiwan Wiriyachai, one of Pheu Thai's key campaigners, said his party candidate Yuranunt Pamornmontri led Democrat Party rival Tankhun Jitt-itsara by 7% in popularity as of yesterday.

He admitted tomorrow's by-election in Bangkok's Constituency 12 would be very competitive and the gap between the winner and the runner-up would be only about 3,000 to 5,000 votes.

Mr Yuranunt is a new face in Don Muang, but he is widely recognised by the public, the former deputy House speaker said.

Mr Tankhun was a previous candidate and is also well-known among locals, he said.

Mr Apiwan said the by-election has been seen as a fair competition as no competitors launched smear campaigns against their rivals.

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra's participation in the election campaign on behalf of Mr Yuranunt has also boosted his popularity, he said.

Mr Apiwan also shrugged off criticism that the prospect of a tight race was due to the popularity of former Pheu Thai MP, Karun "Keng" Hosakul, who was disqualified by the Supreme Court for violating election law during the previous election campaign in 2011.

Mr Karun is broadly loved by the locals and his personal behaviour has had no impact on the election, Mr Apiwan said.

Speaking in an election rally for Mr Tankhun yesterday, Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva also said the contest would be close.

The poll result would send a signal to the government that it needs to improve its performance quickly, he said.

Mr Abhisit conceded that the Democrats fell behind Pheu Thai in terms of political popularity in the constituency. However, Mr Tankhun has still received good feedback from locals, he said.

The former prime minister said he was concerned about the Democrats' popularity at military bases dotted around the constituency as the party is short of support there.

The party will try to approach the military bases far more, he said.

Speaking on stage at the Democrats' campaign rally, the party secretary-general, Chalermchai Sri-on, appealed to locals to choose Mr Tankhun as he would help scrutinise the government's work.

Pheu Thai Party candidate Yuranunt Pamornmontri gives a wai to his supporters while on the campaign trail at Don Muang Technical College yesterday ahead of the by-election in Don Muang district’s Constituency 12 tomorrow. TAWATCHAI KHEMGUMNERD

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Writer: Aekarach Sattaburuth and Manop Thip-Osod