Scare tactics set to fall on deaf ears
If you don't choose us, HE will return!
This scare slogan or hate tactic has recently returned to haunt Bangkokians with the capital's gubernatorial election just around the corner.
The same slogan went viral about nine years ago shortly before the Bangkok governor election which saw the Pheu Thai party's candidate, Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen, pitted against Democrat candidate, MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra.
Then, all the pollsters predicted a landslide victory for Pongsapat. The slogan and the timing of its launch was intended to warn undecided voters in Bangkok to vote for MR Sukhumbhand if they didn't want to see the political comeback of exiled former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra as his shadow loomed large behind Pol Gen Pongsapat. This scare tactic, touted as a strategic vote, worked, probably because the sentiment among Thaksin's opponents then remained strong. MR Sukhumbhand won the election.
So, the "HE" here is none other than Thaksin. But then who really is the proxy of Thaksin in the upcoming May 22 election as the Pheu Thai Party has not fielded a candidate vying for the governor's seat?
There are two former Pheu Thai Party members contesting the election, Sita Tiwari who is running for the Thai Sang Thai Party, and Chadchart Sittipunt, former transport minister of the government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra who is running as an independent candidate.
Mr Chadchart appears to be the man targeted by this scare slogan as he has been leading in all opinion polls, as was the case of Pol Gen Pongsapat about nine years ago although the former has denied all along that he has any political affiliation and has not received any support from the Pheu Thai Party or any of its party members.
If not Mr Chadchart, who are the other choices who are deemed to be on the opposite side of Thaksin? There are three of them at least, namely former Bangkok governor Aswin Kwanmuang, former deputy Bangkok governor Sakoltee Phattiyakul who are running as independent candidates and Suchatvee Suwansawat of the Democrat Party.
But will the slogan have the magic which will turn the tide against Mr Chadchart? I doubt it.
The sentiment against Thaksin among those who are allied with the anti-Thaksin camp or who used to join anti-Thaksin and anti-Yingluck protests may not be as strong as it was nine years ago. Quite a few of them may be sick of the seemingly endless political clan rivalry between extremists of the opposing camps which has dragged on for more than a decade.
Prominent figures who are echoing this slogan are far-right hawks. Among them are Lt-Gen Nanthadet Meksawat, former chief of the special operations centre of the National Security Centre, and former Thammasat University lecturer Dr Seri Wongmontha.
Writing in his own hand, former Bangkok governor and former leader of Palang Dham Party Chamlong Srimuang urged Bangkok's voters to cast their ballots for Rosana Tositrakul, an independent candidate. He said he is confident that Ms Rosana, the former senator, can win the election.
Campaigning on a shoestring budget using the lids of bamboo baskets plastered with his posters, Mr Chamlong won in a landslide against Democrat candidate Chana Rungsaeng in 1985. He hopes for something similar from Ms Rosana.
All the opinion polls have placed independent candidate, Chadchart Sittipunt, as the frontrunning candidate.
Meanwhile, Dr Mana Nimitmongkol, secretary-general of Anti-Corruption Thailand, a think-thank devoted to the problem, highlighted suspected massive corruption in the city administration, noting however that most candidates have paid scant attention to it but focused on "selling their dream projects".
He didn't openly say which candidates Bangkok voters should vote for on May 22. Only one candidate stands out with a clear anti-corruption agenda: Rosana Tositrakul.
Ms Rosana once said that Bangkok cannot be changed for the better unless corruption is tackled in earnest.
Whether the hype about the corruption or the scare slogan will turn the tide against Mr Chadchart remains to be seen.
One recent opinion poll said most people will vote on the personalities and policies of the candidates. Gender has never been a factor in determining votes in Bangkok governor's election.
Europe has a long history of women in power, with several women being elected prime ministers. Former German Chancellor Angela Merkel is a good example after her 16 years in the post. Hence the idea of a strong-willed woman in the Bangkok governor's seat is both timely and trendy, particularly a woman with an anti-corruption agenda.
Veera Prateepchaikul is former editor, Bangkok Post.
Former Bangkok Post Editor, political commentator and a regular columnist at Post Publishing.