City poll a harbinger?
Chadchart Sittipunt's landslide victory in the gubernatorial election in Bangkok on May 22 has helped restore hope that the political divisions which have riven society for nearly two decades may be drawing to a close.
The result serves as a huge victory for people of a moderate political stance. By throwing their support behind Mr Chadchart, who ran as a non-partisan candidate, voters made it clear they are fed up with colour-coded conflicts and long-standing confrontations with no end in sight.
Mr Chadchart's win also sends a wake-up call to the powers-that-be, who until now have failed to nurture reconciliation, despite the promises made during the 2014 coup. It also sends a message to those on the opposite side of the political spectrum.
Mr Chadchart swept more than 1.3 million votes in the first gubernatorial poll held in the capital in nine years. He beat all candidates from the government side, namely former governor Aswin Kwanmuang and his deputy, Sakoltee Phattiyakul.
And with over 253,000 votes, a new face in local politics, Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn from the Move Forward Party (MFP), trailed closely behind Suchatvee Suwansawat, who came second in the closely fought contest.
Meanwhile, Pheu Thai and the MFP won a combined 34 of 50 Bangkok councillor seats, while the ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP), despite emerging as a major winner in the 2019 election, grabbed just two seats.
Some observers linked the results to the prevailing negative public sentiment towards the government of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha.
According to Somchai Srisutthiyakorn, a former election commissioner, almost half the 1.3 million votes won by Mr Chadchart came from Pheu Thai supporters. The remaining 740,0000 derived from two political camps -- 200,000 from supporters of the MFP and another 500,000 that are believed to have come from the conservative camp, suggesting the latter's attempt to promote "strategic voting" in favour of one of its candidates backfired pretty badly.
Gen Prayut decided to brush off the potential symbolism of the election results. He downplayed the landslide win by declaring it was limited to just one of Thailand's many provinces, Bangkok, and stressed that it doesn't necessarily reflect a decline in the public's faith in his administration.
However, the shift in public support towards Mr Chadchart epitomises how the public has grown tired of the extreme conflict that characterises Thailand's colour-coded politics, especially the military-leaning PPRP and the red-shirt faction under Pheu Thai.
It also highlights how people have grown disheartened with Gen Prayut's failure to keep his promises in nurturing reconciliation, with the right-wing faction sowing hatred and divisions, putting the country at risk of a political deadlock akin to what it has endured over the past two decades.
They are fed up with the unfair games being played as the government made unjustified gains out of the current charter, especially a provision on the 250-strong Senate that would help endorse Gen Prayut for another term after the next general election either this year or next.
In short, the people of Bangkok want to teach the government a lesson, and this election could be a sign of things to come. As such, the premier and the ruling party should realise the time is almost up for colour-coded conflicts. If not, their fortunes may no longer be in the ascendant.
Bangkok Post editorial column
These editorials represent Bangkok Post thoughts about current issues and situations.
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