BANGKOK (AP) — Residents of the Thai capital Bangkok have elected an independent politician believed to be opposed to a military-backed government for the first time in nine years to vote for the city’s governor, results announced earlier Monday. .
Chadchart Sittipunt was widely predicted to take the lead in the field in opinion polls, but the virtually complete but unverified results greatly exceeded expectations, winning 1,386,215, or nearly 52% of the 2,673,696 votes, in Sunday’s election.
He competed in a field with 31 candidates with just under 61% turnout.
The 55-year-old Chadchart ran as an independent, but was seen by supporters and opponents alike as a proxy for the Pheu Thai party, the main opposition group in the parliament. He served as Minister of Transport in the Phu Thai government from 2012-2014 and ran as one of the party’s candidates for prime minister in the 2019 general election.
Chadchart told reporters Monday morning, “Now that we have orders from the people, we immediately begin to visit communities and regions to see where we can start working as governor as soon as possible.” “We have a young and energetic team eager to transfer.”
The independent candidate, considered a supporter of the ruling Palang Pracharat Party, finished fifth in the primary. In fifth place former Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang, a retired senior police officer, won 214,692 votes, accounting for about 8% of the total vote.
Asawin, 71, was appointed governor in 2016 by former military commander Prayut Chanocha in a 2014 coup d’état and sacked the former governor on charges of corruption. Prayut inaugurated as Prime Minister After the 2019 general election, a coalition government led by the military-backed Palang Pracharat Party was launched.
Prayuth, who is accused of messing up its response to the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19), he is expected to face a no-confidence bill in Congress soon, and his rivals have long been rumored to fire him. Even if they survive, there should be a general election early next year.
Prior to the vote, Titinan Pongsudirak, professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, said the election was the first important election since the 2014 coup.
“People want to have a say,” he said in an email to the Associated Press. “If the outcome is clearly against Palang Pracharat’s rule, it will affect parliament, prayut and distrust.”
But while the Bangkok election results are disappointing for Prayut and the ruling party, that’s not a sign of death.
Although there were ideological reasons to influence many voters, Chadchart is also one of the country’s most charismatic politicians, who have campaigned vigorously compared to the relatively pale bureaucrat Asawin.
More importantly, voters in Bangkok do not necessarily reflect the national trend in Thailand, where voters are mostly rural. The ruling Palang Pracharath party, with the help of influential local and local political leaders, was able to mobilize large rural voters in the 2019 elections.