3 major parties vying for North

3 major parties vying for North

Special Report: Pheu Thai likely to clinch bulk of 62 seats, writes Chairith Yonpiam

Northern voter checking his information for the upcoming election. (Bangkok Post file photo)
Northern voter checking his information for the upcoming election. (Bangkok Post file photo)

The North will see three major political parties -- Pheu Thai, Palang Pracharath (PPRP) and the Democrats -- battle fiercely for their share of House seats as they enter the final straight leading to this Sunday's general election.

With 62 seats up for grabs in the North, Pheu Thai is widely expected to prevail and pocket at least 40 while the PPRP is seen as a top rival seeking 30 or more. The Democrat Party hopes to retain the 10-15 seats it clinched in the last election.

The North comprises Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Lampang, Phayao, Nan, Phrae, Uttaradit, Mae Hong Son, Lamphun, Tak, Phitsanulok, Phichit, Kamphaeng Phet and Sukhothai.

In the 2011 election there were 66 seats available. Pheu Thai claimed 49, followed by the Democrats (13), Bhumjaithai (2), Chartthaipattana (2), Chart Pattana Pheu Pandin (2).

Col Thamanat Prompao, the PPRP's chief strategist for elections in the North, said the PPRP seeks to gain 30 seats in the North and 2.3 million votes, which would be used to calculate the number of party-list seats it will get.

He said PPRP's campaign policies have appealed to voters in the North, such as the state welfare cards and a three-year debt moratorium on loans from the Village Fund.

Col Thamanat said Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai will be fierce battlegrounds between PPRP and Pheu Thai, and the PPRP is expected to get three to four House seats each in the two provinces.

It is also tipped to win all three seats in Phayao, he said, adding Lampang will see intense competition between the rivals as well.

Tanusak Lek-uthai, a Pheu Thai party-list candidate in the North, said Pheu Thai would triumph in the region, winning at least 45 House seats. Pheu Thai is confident of sweeping all House seats in Lampang, Nan, Uttaradit, Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai.

Mr Tanusak admitted PPRP's "populist" policies, such as the state welfare card programme, are proving increasingly popular with voters. However he insisted Pheu Thai would not scrap them if it forms a government, but would strive to improve on them.

He also noted how similar the election campaign policies being presented by several parties were.

Commenting on the Future Forward Party (FFP), Mr Tanusak said that while the FFP is popular among first-time and young voters in downtown areas in the North, it has had little impact on people living in more remote areas or the outskirts of cities and villages.

A source within the Democrat Party said Pheu Thai's popularity remains strong in several northern provinces, but it may only get 40 House seats as several of its former MPs have defected to rival parties, especially PPRP.

The source said Pheu Thai's election campaign remains fixed on whipping up opposition to the military and attacking the Prayut Chan-o-cha government's handling of the economy.

"Pheu Thai stands a good chance of sweeping all seats in Nan and Uttaradit while PPRP will likely sweep Sukhothai, Kamphaeng Phet and Phetchabun," the source said.

The Democrat Party hopes to capture seats in provinces where the dissolved Thai Raksa Chart (TRC) Party was earlier expected to win, the source added.

The dissolution of the TRC has affected two provinces -- Phichit (three seats) and Phrae (two seats) -- where it was favoured to win seats.

After the party was dissolved by the Constitutional Court, Worawat Uea-apinyakul, a former member of the TRC, launched a campaign encouraging people in Phrae to vote "no".

The "vote no" campaign is aimed at ensuring the number of "no" votes will be higher than the number of votes gained by winning candidates in those constituencies, which would effectively annul the voting results as stipulated by the constitution, and force the Election Commission to hold reruns.

Pundits expect this would also open the door for Pheu Thai to field more candidates.

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