The 31 candidates vying for Bangkok governorship now have less than 50 days to impress voters. But after examining their policies and campaigns, political observers believe they can separate the top contenders from the flops.
Analysts say all the candidates share similar policies to address Bangkok’s long-standing problems of flooding, traffic congestion, quality of life and pollution. Yet, some aspirants stand out for their presentation skills and practical plans to implement their ideas.
Who has the “wow factor”?
Dr Stithorn Thananithichot, Director of Innovation for Democracy at the King Prajadhipok Institute, named independent candidate Chadchart Sittipunt as the first candidate to stand out from the crowd.
Instead of highlighting big policies, Chadchart presented 200 small ideas to fill the gaps and deliver tangible results given that all of the city’s key infrastructure is already in place. According to him, Bangkok just needs to connect services and infrastructure to improve people’s efficiency and quality of life.
His low-key campaign was also praised by voters.
“Compared to other big names, Chadchart doesn’t have a lot of billboards,” Stithorn pointed out. “When people noticed this, he explained that he did this on purpose because he wanted to minimize waste. He also decided to go with reusable vinyl banners.
To further promote its green agenda, Chadchart uses electric vehicles in its campaign trailers.
Sonthi Kotchawat, an independent environmental health expert, believes that Chadchart’s environmental policies are sound and workable.
Chadchart had, for example, said that he would not hesitate to revoke the permits of polluting construction companies to meet his commitment to combat PM2.5 dust. He also said more sensors measuring PM2.5 dust in the air would be installed around the capital and authorities would distribute protective gear to vulnerable residents.
“His presentation reassured the audience that these were not empty promises as he explains how his policies will deliver the desired results,” Sonthi said.
Meanwhile, Chadchart has pledged to tackle Bangkok’s dearth of green space if elected, promising pocket parks will spring up across the city so greenery is accessible to all unless 15 minutes on foot.
“He said he would also offer tax incentives to wealthy landowners who agree to turn their empty plots into parks,” Sonthi said.
Winners and losers of the “poster war” for Bangkok’s gubernatorial election
Who could be a flop?
Although Democratic candidate Prof. Dr. Suchatvee Suwansawat remains a strong contender, his popularity appears to be waning after a strong start to the campaign, Stithorn said.
“He had a big opening at the start. Citing his strength as a competent engineer, he presented his ideas for infrastructure projects. However, it didn’t impress,” Stithorn said. He now believes Suchatvee’s chances of winning the gubernatorial election are slim.
Sonthi said that although Suchatvee tried to scale down his big policies and talk more with voters, he struggled to connect with them. “Although he’s walked the markets, he still seems to know too little about what people need,” the analyst commented.
Other size contenders
According to Stithorn, other strong candidates include Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn of the Move Forward party, former Bangkok governor Pol General Aswin Kwanmuang, his former deputy governor Sakoltee Phattiyakul and former senator Rosana Tositrakul.
Aswin has served Bangkok for the past eight years – first as Deputy Governor and then as Governor. However, this former senior police officer has never contested a gubernatorial election before.
He landed the coveted job through a special appointment by the junta leader in October 2016. Although his politics do not stand out, he enjoys some perks. Many voters in the city and Bangkok Metropolitan Administration officials will back him because he is a familiar face. However, it is unlikely to appeal to the younger generation.
Sharing Aswin’s lack of outstanding policies is his former right-hand man, Sakoltee. However, he seems poised to do well in political debates thanks to his experience as deputy governor.
Rosana, who aspires to be a ‘woman butler’ for the city, called on Bangkokians to vote for a woman for change and see the difference a woman’s caring and more cautious nature makes. Bangkok has never had a female governor.
Rosana’s policies are strong, says Sonthi, before adding that she doesn’t have a strong enough team behind her.
Wiroj, meanwhile, has opened up about his charismatic character and vows to “tackle all challenges head-on for the people of Bangkok”. The main targets of his beacon are city officials who accept bribes and monopolistic business practices.
Former government spokesperson Sita Divari of the Thai Sang Thai political party was late in announcing his candidacy for the gubernatorial race, so his politics are less well known. His campaign focuses on the 3Ps – people, profit and the planet.
Bangkok’s Biggest Race Challenge
Final Turn Focus
Stithorn believes that all candidates will constantly adjust their policies to get ahead in the final sprint to the finish line. Although their basic ideas are already familiar to the public, they can still refine them to appeal to voters in the run-up to the May 22 election.
“I think voters will see their best pitches in the final week of the campaign,” Stithorn said.
Action plans are crucial
Sumet Ongkittikul, director of transport and logistics policy research at the Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI), said applicants should not only present their ideas, but also show how they would translate into action. .
“We have been hearing about the development of feeders and connected ticketing for Bangkok’s public transport system for more than 10 years. Candidates in previous gubernatorial elections have spoken extensively about these policies. It is therefore high time that candidates not only talk about ‘good policies’ but also explain how they will be implemented,” Sumet said.
He is keen to see leading gubernatorial candidates participate in political debates so that voters can determine which ones will be able to deliver real results.
Assistant Professor Tavida Kamolvej, dean of the political science faculty at Thammasat University, said voters should treat candidates’ electoral policies as social contracts.
“Watch the successful candidate and push them to action,” Tavida said.
By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk