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Democrats surprise with victory in Pheu Thai stronghold

Sep 04. 2012
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Victory by the Democrats' Bangkok council candidate Kanoknuch Narksuwannapa over Prawase Wallopbanharn from Pheu Thai was a big surprise, as Constituency 1 has been a strong vote base for Prawase's backer, Karun Hosakul, for a long time.

The Bangkok governor election will be held early next year when the Democrats’ MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra’s first term ends, and an MP by-election for the constituency would be held soon if the Supreme Court disqualifies Pheu Thai’s Karun. His position as an MP has been suspended by the Election Commission. So, many people are trying to work out what this election result reveals.

In Sunday’s by-election to fill the seat of Suriya Hosakul, who died in July, the turnout was 44 per cent. Democrat-backed Kanoknuch received 12,858 votes, while Prawase received 10,224 votes. The other candidates received fewer than 1,000 votes.
A key factor behind the result, according to candidate back-ups from both major parties, was work during the flood late last year.
Former Democrat MP candidate Tankhun Jitt-itsara, who helped Kanoknuch in the campaign, said the latter won voters’ hearts because she worked hard all along without worrying about being elected. 
During the flood period, he and Kanoknuch visited and provided help to victims every single day. They also followed up for rehabilitation for the victims, he said.
Meanwhile, Karun said Pheu Thai Party would study the result to fix what they missed. But he said they must work harder to promote what the party had done for people.
“Although we lost, we reached our goal set in every aspect. We expected a 30-per-cent turnout and we should have got over 10,000 votes. That should have won us the seat. We reached our set goals but the turnout was up to 44 per cent, which was higher than we expected and quite a number of voters went for our opponent’s candidate. Personally, I think the fieldwork, the teams and readiness, was very strong and we had it all,” he said.
Karun said he believed the loss stemmed from misunderstanding by people about the compensation money paid to flood victims.
A Democrat source, who asked not to be named, said Kanoknuch’s victory was a good sign for the party as the constituency had been Pheu Thai’s (and its ancestors like Thai Rak Thai Party) for over a decade. And, the characteristic of the area was semi-urban, so voters used to mainly be community residents mobilised by canvassers. With the turnout as high as 44 per cent, it meant new groups of voters had come out to express their will. They included people who live in housing estates or individual homes, which were hard for canvassers to reach and influence.
The turnout of the Bangkok Council election in 2010 had been close to 38 per cent. 
The source said although this victory could not compare to the upcoming Bangkok governor’s election or the MP by-election to be held soon, the Democrats were very glad because its candidates used to lag far behind in this constituency. Bangkok is vulnerable and complicated in terms of elections, especially when two major political parties are involved. Many people also mix and consider the balance between local and national politics besides considering the candidates themselves. 
Though nobody dares to predict the result of the upcoming Bangkok governor’s election, or the next Don Muang MP poll, the sign from Kanoknuch’s victory and the turnout makes it clear politics in this constituency between the two major parties will be a lot fiercer.

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