Pheu Thai fish for a governor
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Pheu Thai fish for a governor

The reconciliation campaign has not swayed the Pheu Thai Party's focus on a serious move to challenge the Democrat Party in the governor's election next year when MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra ends his tenure.

Bangkok Governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra ends his tenure next year and Pheu Thai is keen to end the Democrat Party’s stranglehold on City Hall.

Trying to reconcile the political divisions no doubt stands top of the agenda for the ruling party, but Pheu Thai also hopes to dethrone its arch rival when voters in Bangkok go to the polls next year to elect their governor.

The position has been under the comfortable control of the Democrat Party since 2004, when Apirak Kosayodhin won the contest followed by his successor and incumbent governor, MR Sukhumbhand.

But there's one thing that has given Pheu Thai hope in its bid to unseat the Democrats _ a poll on the two parties.

It found that voters in Bangkok were unable to think of what MR Sukhumbhand had achieved so far.

However, when it came to the question of their choice between the two parties next time round, 57% of them still went for the Democrats and just 43% were in favour of Pheu Thai.

Still, Pheu Thai executives are confident that if they choose the right candidate, they can overrun the Democrats and claim victory at City Hall for the first time in their history.

The Democrats are likely to endorse MR Sukhumbhand for the contest to fend off a possible rift within the party if it decides to propose another candidate with no proper position for MR Sukhumbhand to stand for.

Pheu Thai secretary-general Jarupong Ruangsuwan has been tasked as the commander in the fight to beat the Democrats in the capital, with Bangkok MP Vicharn Meenchainant as his key strategist.

The party has set up five working groups to shadow the work of the Democrats in all 50 districts, to monitor the performance of MR Sukhumbhand and his team at City Hall, check his spending budget, identify bad policies to become points of attack for Pheu Thai during the election campaign, and launch public relations schemes. The party holds a weekly meeting on these issues and is rushing to set up coordinating centres for the election in all districts as it does not rule out the possibility of MR Sukhumbhand stepping down before his tenure ends and giving the Democrats an upper hand in the competition.

The party has come up with a slogan _ a Bangkok governor for Bangkok people to better Bangkok _ to make voters question the achievements of MR Sukhumbhand and the Democrats after seven years of control.

Pheu Thai aims to lure voters to switch from the Democrats by citing better coordination between City Hall and the government in solving problems in Bangkok if they are from the same party.

Still, one main issue which remains unsettled for the party is finding a candidate who will convince people in Bangkok that he or she is the one to fit the slogan and beat MR Sukhumbhand in the race.

The party considered choosing Yuranan Pamornmontri or Prapas Chongsa-nguan to run in the contest, but it had second thoughts as the two might not prove to be competitive against MR Sukhumbhand.

This leaves the option open for other possible candidates. Those on the radar include Information and Communication Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap, Science and Technology Minister Plodprasop Suraswadi, Uthen Chartpinyo, who is an adviser to the prime minister on water management, and Pavena Hongsakul. Even the name of Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong has been mentioned in party meetings.

Pheu Thai is also waiting for the 111 politicians of the now defunct Thai Rak Thai Party to serve out their political ban at the end of next month. Some members, including Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan, could show an interest in representing the party in the poll.

"We are considering the strengths and weaknesses of all candidates, both the old and new faces. They have to be outstanding, understand the needs and problems of people in Bangkok and take action to solve them decisively," said Mr Vicharn, who stressed that another qualification to be considered is that they need to work hand in hand with Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra.

The party still has plenty of time to make the final choice on its candidate, said Mr Vicharn.

Aekarach Sattaburuth reports on political affairs for the Bangkok Post.

Aekarach Sattaburuth

General News Reporter

Bangkok Post General News Reporter

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