Smear sparks poll unrest fear

Smear sparks poll unrest fear

Anti-Thaksin critics target Chadchart

Chadchart Sittipunt, a leading independent contender, is seen by anti-Thaksin Shinawatra critics as too close to the opposition Pheu Thai Party and the former prime minister. (Photo: Chadchart Sittipunt Facebook account)
Chadchart Sittipunt, a leading independent contender, is seen by anti-Thaksin Shinawatra critics as too close to the opposition Pheu Thai Party and the former prime minister. (Photo: Chadchart Sittipunt Facebook account)

The final stretch of the Bangkok governor campaign is heating up with the front-running candidate smeared with a scare tactic last employed in the March 3, 2013 Bangkok election governor campaign.

This time, the tactic is being exploited in a campaign aimed at diverting votes to one of four candidates approved by the groups behind the campaign which targets Chadchart Sittipunt, a leading independent contender.

Mr Chadchart is seen by these groups as too close to the opposition party and former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, said Lt Gen Nanthadej Meksawat, a former head of the Armed Forces Security Centre.

Like Mr Chadchart, former Pheu Thai candidate Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen was ahead in several polls and seen as favourite to win the 2013 poll.

But MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra of the Democrat Party was able to defeat Pol Gen Pongsapat thanks to a scare tactic that urged voters to cast their votes for MR Sukhumbhand or else see the candidate linked to Thaksin win instead, said Lt Gen Nanthadej.

In this campaign, unlike in the 2013 poll, there are up to four candidates approved by the anti-Thaksin camp, namely Suchatvee Suwansawat, Sakoltee Phattiyakul, Pol Gen Aswin Kwanmuang, and Rosana Tositrakul, according to Seri Wongmontha, a key figure in the yellow-shirted People's Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC).

Mr Seri is an anti-Thaksin figure drumming up support for what he describes as strategic voting against a figure known as "he", apparently referring to any candidates linked to Thaksin.

The campaigning phrase "If you're not voting for us, he will definitely win" is now back, said Mr Seri in a Facebook post in which he encouraged voters to do the same as they did in the 2013 poll: avoid the Thaksin-linked candidate.

Last week, former Bangkok governor Chamlong Srimuang, also a yellow shirt, urged support for Ms Rosana, a former Bangkok senator and a yellow shirt, as Bangkok's first female governor.

Deputy Pheu Thai leader Sutin Klungsang, meanwhile, said the scare tactic would not work again this time as the "he" and the "us" in the campaign now aren't really the same as in the 2013 election.

The ''he'' back then referred solely to Pol Gen Pongsapat and the ''us'' to MR Sukhumbhand, while now the he could refer to both Mr Chadchart and Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn of the Move Forward Party, while the ''us'' refers to up four candidates.

''That explains why the same strategic voting tactic won't work again especially now that the political context has changed dramatically from 2013 and voters are no longer easily convinced by such a tactic,'' said Mr Sutin.

Assoc Prof Yuttaporn Issarachai, a political science lecturer with Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, agreed the strategic voting campaign is unlikely to work this time.

Unlike nine years ago, the 4.4 million eligible voters in the May 22 gubernatorial election incudes up to 700,000 first-time voters and more than a million Gen Y people, while the number of voters who tend to be of a conservative stripe is less than 2 million, he said.

''The point is it isn't that easy to influence young voters by simply using the same old tactic,'' he said.

Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha, meanwhile, urged all sides to maintain peace in the leadup to the election, saying any new political unrest will ruin the hard work that everyone has done to restore peace.

According to a source, the PM was concerned about the movements by various political groups in the lead-up to next weekend's elections.

One was the submission of a petition with the House committee on corruption and misconduct prevention and suppression against Mr Chadchart in connection with a 2018 project evaluation for Chulalongkorn University, said the source.

Results of opinion surveys as to who is likely to win Sunday's election can no longer be published from Sunday until the 5pm on Sunday, said Samran Tanphanit, director of the Office of Election Commission of Bangkok.

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