The race to win Sam Phran district of Nakhon Pathom province in an upcoming by-election looks set to be a proxy war between two political camps after a royal decree calling the vote was issued on Saturday morning.
The Election Commission set Wednesday, Oct 23 as the date for the Constituency 5 by-election. Candidate applications will be accepted from Monday to Friday at the Sam Phran district office.
Constituency 5, dominated by industrial employees and entrepreneurs, encompasses most of Sam Phran district, except three tambons — Talat Chinda, Khlong Jinda and Bang Chang.
Jumpita Chandarakachorn of the Future Forward Party (FFP) won in the March 24 election with 34,164 votes, followed by Surachai Anutto of the Democrats (18,970), Rawang Netphokaew of Palang Pracharath (18,741) and Padermchai Sasomsap of Chartthaipattana (12,279).
Mrs Jumpita has since been sick following an accident and has never set foot in Parliament. She submitted her resignation as an MP to House president Chuan Leekpai on Sept 10.
FFP said it would field Mrs Jumpita’s husband Pairattachote Chandarakachorn as its candidate after he beat other candidates in a primary vote. The party kicked off campaigning last Saturday. Pheu Thai said it would not run in the by-election "to honour our opposition ally".
Like Pheu Thai, PPRP, which leads the governing coalition, said it would not field a candidate in order to allow its major ally to maximise its chances.
The Democrat Party announced on Saturday that it would again field Mr Surachai.
Anutin Charnvirakul, the leader of Bhumjaithai, another coalition party, said he would respect the tradition, meaning his party was unlikely to compete against its coalition allies.
It remains unclear at this stage whether Chartthaipattana would field Mr Padermchai again.
The Opposition is pinning its hopes on the Nakhon Pathom by-election, believing it will trigger a domino effect of defeat for the coalition as more by-elections take place in months to come. With a razor-thin majority, each seat counts for both sides in the House.
At least two more by-elections will be held soon. One is for Constituency 2 of Kamphaeng Phet where the PPRP winner had been sentenced to four years in jail for his role in the disruption of the Asean Summit in Pattaya in 2009 when he was a red-shirt.
The other is in Samut Prakan, where a PPRP candidate was handed a yellow card because one of his aides handed out 500 baht to make merit at a funeral. Unlike a red card, a yellow card means the MP who allegedly committed the wrongdoing can still run. PPRP chief strategist Gen Prawit Wongsuwon has indicated that the party would back its candidate again.
The Nakhon Pathom by-election is held simply to find a new winner for the constituency. There will be no recalculation of party-list quotas of all parties like in the Chiang Mai by-election in May. The election law requires a recalculation of party-list quotas only when a by-election is held because of election fraud.
Mrs Jumpita surprised local people when she beat veteran politician Padermchai, the eldest of the influential Sasomsab political clan, in the March 24 poll.
Mr Padermchai won 48,875 votes in the district when he ran under the Pheu Thai banner in the 2011 election. He later switched to Chartthaipattana but won just 12,279 votes in March.
Mrs Jumpita’s victory was believed to have been the result of a combination of “Thanathorn fever” in the last stretch of the March 24 poll, Pheu Thai’s absence, the dissolution of its spinoff Thak Raksa Chart and resentment over the “ideological betrayal” of the influential Sasomsap family.