Uphill battle for Chadchart
Bangkok voters have been known to deliver last-minute electoral shocks, but the result of Sunday's gubernatorial election was not a surprise to anyone. As predicted by pundits and opinion polls, Chadchart Sittipunt, who once served as transport minister under the ousted Pheu Thai administration, won with a comfortable margin.
His victory couldn't have been more sweet, as the academic-turned-politician received 1.3 million votes -- smashing the record set by Bangkok's longest-serving governor, MR Sukhumband Paribatra, who won his second term with 1.2 million votes.
Voters in the capital seem to have gone gaga for their newly elected governor, with reports of his campaign banners and posters being taken down by supporters to be recycled into shopping bags.
This is due to the nature of his campaign, which used online platforms and cartoons to draw younger voters. It is also worth mentioning that he launched his campaign about two years ago, far ahead of other candidates. Since his campaign began, he consciously distanced himself from Pheu Thai and ran door-to-door campaign visiting local communities to learn about their problems.
People don't just vote based on a candidate's personality and policy platforms. In fact, election results generally reflect the prevailing public sentiment. Bangkok voters, tired of political polarisation, sought a uniting figure who would bring society together -- and they found that figure in Mr Chadchart, an independent candidate who has pledged to work with everyone regardless of their political affiliations.
No matter what he stands for, his tenure at City Hall will be tough. Many governors garner roses during their election campaign and early days in the office, only to be pelted with bricks years afterwards. In fact, more than a few have left office with their reputations destroyed.
In addition to the risks, governors will find the majority of their time occupied with coordinating with the central government and other agencies over mundane issues such as rubbish management and flooding.
With regards to rubbish management, Mr Chadchart will have to find ways to raise enough money to fund the capital's waste management projects. The Bangkok Metropolitan Administration has deferred its plan to hike rubbish collection fees for almost three years now, to avoid adding economic hardship during the pandemic. Without the cash and increased collection fee as a disincentive to change polluters' behaviour, the city's zero-waste goals will remain a pipe dream.
When it comes to floods, Mr Chadchart must realise the solution lies beyond flood tunnels, more canals and better sewers. The capital's flood problems are caused by its geography, and climate change is compounding the issue. Land zoning needs to be revised to create more water-retention zones -- meaning he will have to negotiate with developers and existing residents. Bangkok also needs massive investments to stop it from sinking due to land subsidence and rising seawater.
The most pressing challenge, however, is ending graft. Corruption is rife within City Hall, with some officials taking petty kickbacks from street vendors while others raking in big amounts through other projects. In fact, several governors have been slapped with graft charges because of City Hall's complex and opaque bidding process.
The honeymoon period for the new governor will be fleeting. Hopefully, Mr Chadchart will remain a uniting figure and be a governor for all until the end. Bangkok voters may not be as forgiving in the next poll.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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