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The countdown begins

Jan 21. 2013
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By Jintana Panyaarvudh,

The battle for Bangkok governor officially starts today - the first day of candidate registration. The election will be a direct contest between the two major parties, the ruling Pheu Thai and the opposition Democrat Party. None of the political parties l

Ong-art Klampaiboon's interview

Continuity will be the key message the Democrat Party will convey during its election campaign after having governed the capital city for eight years.

“Our campaign strategy is to convince voters to vote for our candidate MR Sukhumbhand [Paribatra] so that he can continue his work, with the full collaboration of our Bangkok MPs and local council members,” Ong-art Klampaiboon, the Democrat Party campaign manager, told The Nation.

Policies will be proposed to voters in Bangkok on safety, traffic, quality of life, the environment, and significantly, how to make Bangkok the world’s top tourist destination.

Under the Democrat Party’s local administration, the capital city won tourism awards several times. Bangkok has been named “World’s Best City” by Travel + Leisure magazine’s survey of its readers for three consecutive years since 2010.

“The awards were given to us by others. It means they recognised us. This could be used in our PR campaign,” he said

While Pheu Thai is keen to introduce new policies, the Democrats won’t propose any striking or “wow” policies, Ong-art said, adding, the party had run Bangkok for eight years and was aware which policies could or could not be done.

“We are realistic and won’t propose any exaggerated policies. We will implement what we promised in the last election and continue to deliver what we promise in this election,” he said.

Ong-art was not much concerned about Pheu Thai’s “seamless” campaign. Pheu Thai is urging voters to choose the government’s candidate for seamless cooperation between the national and city administration. He said it was a formula used by every government when it had to compete with the opposition. Voters would pick the candidate who put up realistic policies, he said.

The Democrat Party has won three consecutive Bangkok governor polls, including a by-election, while they were the opposition party but Ong-art admitted the battle this time is tougher than in previous elections. “Politics has changed a lot and the government has thrown its whole effort to win. Especially, fugitive ex-premier Thaksin [Shinawatra] recently expressed confidence that Pheu Thai would definitely win. We fear that they may take advantage of legal loopholes,” he said.

The two main candidates – Sukhumbhand and Pheu Thai’s Pol General Pongsapat Pongcharoen – have contrasting characters. Sukhumbhand is seen as a person not so keen to communicate with the public while Pongsapat appeared to be a PR man or a person keen to make news or publicise himself. Pongsapat appears down-to-earth while Sukhumbhand looks the opposite. However, the campaign manager was not concerned about the contrasting personalities.

“Sukhumbhand is truly himself. We cannot change or portray him as another person. People have known him as Khun Chai [member of royal family] all his life. We have to present the truth to voters,” he said.

In Ong-art’s view, Sukhumbhand does not have the gift of the gab and is too much of a “gentleman”. He is not a person who always counterattacks. But his ability, well-rounded personality, devotion and good intention to work, sincerity, and considerable experience will help cover his weak points, he said.

Sukhumbhand has also faced several accusations during his term. For example, signing an extension of the Skytrain’s operations contract with Bangkok Mass Transit System without due authority, failing to meet the deadline for the futsal stadium construction, and failing to solve the flood problem in Bangkok. But Ong-art said those accusations were not related to corruption scandals. “This could be the right time for Sukhumbhand to clarify about the accusations, during his campaign,” he said.

The campaign manager said the Bangkok governor candidate would get votes from all sections of society otherwise he would not get up to a million votes.

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