Race for City Hall at start gate

Race for City Hall at start gate

Field of 7 hopefuls pitch slogans to woo voters

The race is on for the city governorship even though candidate registration does not take place until next Monday.

Six challengers have expressed an intent to take on former governor MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra for the seat. MR Sukhumbhand quit the post last week to run for a second term.

The latest to join the race is Pol Gen Pongsapat Pongcharoen, who quit as former deputy national police chief and former secretary-general of the Office of the Narcotics Control Board to contest the race on behalf of the Pheu Thai Party.

The remaining five candidates _ Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, Kosit Suvinitjit, Suharit Siamwalla, Metta Temchamnan and Waranchai Chokchana _ will run as independents.

Pol Gen Pongsapat's campaign slogan of "working with the government seamlessly" suggests he plans to zero in on what he sees as the governor's failure to cooperate closely with the Pheu Thai-led administration.

It is no secret that MR Sukhumbhand and the government failed to get along, reflected in their haphazard efforts to tackle the 2011 flooding.

Pol Gen Sereepisuth, who will run as an independent candidate, will be familiar to voters due his reign as national police chief.

"The whole country knows me," he said.

However, he admits that a lack of a political affiliation might be a disadvantage for him as he battles for leadership of the city against MR Sukhumbhand and Pol Gen Pongsapat.

"But if we take out the party popularity, I believe nobody can beat me," he said.

Pol Gen Sereepisuth has been campaigning for some time with support from the Friends of Seree group which boasts 5,000 members.

City residents have received him warmly over the past few months, he said.

The former national police chief is expecting support from more than 50,000 city police officers and their families.

Mr Kosit, the former owner of several media companies, and Mr Suharit, a DJ and musician, are also contesting the election. Mr Kosit is attempting to win votes by campaigning to provide 24-hour services and safety for the people of Bangkok.

Mr Suharit said he will challenge mainstream policy by tackling traffic congestion without spending any money.

It remains to be seen if the campaign strategies of the two newcomers will catch on.

Capt Metta and Mr Waranchai are expected to add some excitment to the contest.

It will be Capt Metta's third attempt for governor and Mr Waranchai's sixth.

Capt Metta hopes it will be a case of third time lucky.

MR Sukhumbhand's affiliation with the Democrat Party is his weakness, Capt Metta said.

Political affiliations will create rifts between the city administration and the national government, he said.

Capt Metta said he could run City Hall efficiently thanks to his good relations with the Pheu Thai Party and its de facto leader, deposed prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra. "I think I stand a chance," he said.

"I have a platform that MR Sukhumbhand and those who come from the Democrat Party have never cared to pursue." One of his key campaign promises is to return the running of Thon Buri to its residents, though no details about that idea have been unveiled.

Campaigning under the slogan, "Bangkok, the capital of Asean", he promises to alleviate traffic congestion by developing the mass transit system.

Mr Waranchai received 13,000 votes in the last election, a tally he said gave him pride.

Meanwhile, MR Sukhumbhand is campaigning on the slogan: "Love Bangkok, make Bangkok a metropolis for all."

His team is inviting residents to visit his website www.sukhumbhand.com ahead of the March 3 vote.

He said he is striving to make Bangkok the city of safety, the city of happiness, the green city, the city of learning, the city of opportunity, the city of everyone, and the city of Asean.

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