Analysis: Stumbling Palang Pracharath likely to lose Bangkok by-election
The ruling Palang Pracharath Party (PPRP) is unlikely to retain its House seat from Bangkok’s Constituency 9 when the by-election is held at the end of this month, according to different surveys.
The by-election in Lak Si district and a part of Chatuchak district has been scheduled for January 30. The by-election was necessitated by a Constitutional Court ruling that disqualified PPRP's Sira Jenjaka on December 22 because he had been convicted of criminal fraud prior to contesting the seat in the general election on March 24, 2019.
The ruling party has fielded Sira’s wife, Saralras Jenjaka, in the by-election, hoping she can cash in on her husband’s popularity and hold on to his house seat.
However, internal opinion surveys carried out by different political parties fighting the by-election show that Saralras has low chances of winning her husband’s seat.
The surveys were carried out on eligible voters, and on the popularity of the candidates in social media.
The surveys among eligible voters showed that Surachart Thianthong of the Pheu Thai Party and Atavit Suwannaphadee of the Kla Party are the frontrunners.
In these surveys, the PPRP candidate ranked fourth in popularity, behind third-placed Krunphol Tiansuwan of the Move Forward Party, sources from the parties said.
According to the sources, the survey on the candidates among social networkers showed Krunphol as the most popular, followed by Atavit, while Saralras was third.
Political observers believe the country’s economic woes, especially the rising cost of living, and the internal rifts in the PPRP had severely affected the popularity of its candidate.
The observers also said that the changing demography of the constituency had made it a neck-and-neck race.
Many more condominiums have been built in Lak Si and Chatuchak districts whose residents are in the 30 to 35 years age group. This voter segment is believed to support the young Krunphol.
Among the larger group of voters, in the 35 to 60 years age bracket, Surachart and Atavit are fighting hard for support.
Since the Democrat Party is not fielding a candidate in the by-election, about 14,000 voters who voted for the Democrat in the latest poll are seen as a critical swing vote for the candidates in the fray.
Analysts believe that Atavit has a better chance of winning over the 14,000 Democrat supporters because he had stayed with the Democrat before joining the Kla Party led by former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij. Atavit is also supported by canvassers, who are former district councillors and who once supported the former Democrat MP from the constituency, Sakoltee Phattiyakul.
A small group of aged voters are also believed to exercise their influence. This group is expected to support the Thai Pakdee (Loyalist Thais) Party, which is fielding the lesser-known Phanthep Chatnarat in the by-election. The Pheu Thai, the Kla and the PPRP parties are trying to win support from this group as well.
Finally, there is also a group of anti-government voters, who are fed up with the government’s performance. All candidates, except Saralras, are trying to win support from this group by attacking the PPRP and the government.
On Friday, all parties will hold a final major rally and the number of people showing up could offer some hint on the election’s outcome.
The Kla Party has announced that it would introduce a social media influencer of the party at the rally that could help the party to have an edge.
On Monday, Deputy Prime Minister and PPRP leader Prawit Wongsuwan helped Saralras carry out a door-knocking campaign to boost her morale.
The campaign, however, has only provided more ammunition for the opponents to attack the PPRP candidate, as Saralras is seen as a high risk for contracting Covid-19. Earlier, Digital Economy and Society Minister Chaiwut Thanakamanusorn, the PPRP’s by-election director, had tested positive for the virus. Opponents have criticised Saralras for not quarantining herself and risking new Covid-19 clusters.
Political observers see that the situation as not boding well for the PPRP in the by-election.