BANGKOK (AP) – Residents of the Thai capital Bangkok, after voting for the governor of their city for the first time in nine years, have elected an independent politician representing opponents of the government, which supports troops, showed results released Monday morning.
According to opinion polls, Chadchart Sittipunt, according to almost complete but uncertified results, received 1,386,215 votes, or almost 52% of the 2,673,696 votes cast in Sunday’s election, led opinion polls.
He competed with 31 candidates, and voter turnout was just under 61%.
Chadchart, 55, although independent, was seen by both supporters and opponents as a proxy for the Pheu Thai party, the main opposition group in parliament. He served as transport minister in the Pheu Thai government from 2012 to 2014 and was one of the party’s prime ministers in the 2019 general election.
“Now that we have received orders from the people, I would immediately start working, visiting communities and districts to see where I could begin my work as governor,” Chadchart told reporters Monday morning. “I have a young, energetic team that strives to move.”
The independent candidate, who was considered a substitute for the ruling Palang Praharat party, placed a weak fifth in the race. Former Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang, a retired senior police officer, finished fifth with 214,692 votes, or about 8 percent of the vote.
Asavin, 71, was appointed governor in 2016 by Prayut Chan Ocha, who seized power as army commander in a 2014 coup and fired the previous governor on corruption charges. Prayut was returned to the post of Prime Minister after the 2019 elections in a coalition government led by the military-backed Palang Praharat.
Prayut, who was accused of what he did response to the coronavirus pandemicA no-confidence vote is expected in parliament soon, and rumors have long circulated that rivals are seeking to remove him. Even if he survives, general elections are due by early next year.
Titanin Pongsudhirak, a professor of political science at the University of Chulalongkorn in Bangkok, said before the vote that it was the first significant election since the 2014 coup.
“People want to speak out,” he told the Associated Press. “The result, if it clearly contradicts the rule of Palang Praharat, will have consequences for parliament, Prayut and distrust.”
However, while the election results in Bangkok are encouraging for Prayut and the ruling party, they are not a death knell.
Although there were ideological reasons that influenced many voters, Chadchart is also one of the country’s most charismatic politicians, campaigning vigorously against the relatively colorless bureaucrat Asavin.
More importantly, voters in Bangkok do not necessarily reflect national trends in Thailand, whose electorate is predominantly rural. The ruling Palang Praharat party has been able to mobilize many rural voters in the 2019 elections with the help of influential local and provincial political leaders.