By Chularat Saengpassa
BANGKOK’S election results have been a complete surprise, especially the dismal performance of the Democrat Party who suffered a bitter defeat in their electoral stronghold.
The March 24 general election offered 30 constituency-based MPs for Bangkok. Political debutants Phalang Pracharat Party got 13 seats, rising-star Future Forward Party got eight while Democrats’ arch-rivals, Pheu Thai Party, picked up nine.
To the utter shock of observers, none of the Democrat MP candidates won in the capital, after ruling the capital for more than a decade.
In the 2011 election, the Democrat Party had walked away with 23 of the 33 MP seats in Bangkok.
The Democrat Party was also the winner in the capital’s electoral races in 2007.
The victories the Democrats had scored in Bangkok equipped them with political weaponry for their battles against the so-called Thaksin regime for years.
But the March 24 election has proved that Bangkok voters can be fickle.
Former Bangkok MPs who ran under the Democrat banner, including ML Apimongkol Sonakul and Akanat Promphan, lost their races in their own constituencies despite the fact that they had been favourites there for so long.
New Democrats such as Parit “Itim” Wacharasindhu, a prominent nephew of outgoing Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, also bit the dust, belying expectations that they would be the future of the party.
The number of votes Democrat MP candidates got ranged between 6,000 and 18,000 – a massive fall from their dominance of the capital’s politics for years.
The Pheu Thai Party, meanwhile, has still got pretty much the same number of MP seats as in the 2011 election. Eight years ago, Pheu Thai had got 10 out of 33 MP seats in Bangkok. This time, it got nine out of the capital’s 30 MP seats. Wan Yubamrung, a son of seasoned politician Chalerm Yubamrung, won a seat for the Pheu Thai.
Analysts believe that most voters who used to support the Democrats must have cast their ballots for the Phalang Pracharat and Future Forward parties, who both made their electoral debuts this time.
It should be noted that many of the Phalang Pracharat candidates in Bangkok constituencies were former Bangkok councillors – some previously elected under the Democrat banner and some were earlier affiliated with the Pheu Thai. Interestingly, some Phalang Pracharat candidates were new faces but still managed to win. Among them were Pada Vorakanon, Patcharin Samsiripong and Krichanont Iyapunya.
Future Forward candidates were all new faces and looked like just ordinary people before they contested the latest general election.
Among them were Tossaporn Thongsiri, Natcha Boonchai-insawas, and Jirawat Aranyakanont.
Even more surprising is the fact that in addition to the number of MP seats it bagged, Future Forward got the highest number of votes in the capital.
According to the Election Commission (EC), with 94 per cent of ballots counted, the Future Forward Party received 757,367 votes in Bangkok. Phalang Pracharat came second, securing 747,908 votes while Pheu Thai Party was third, receiving 574,694 votes.
The Democrat Party came a poor fourth with 445,614 votes.
The Future Forward Party proved its appeal to young voters, especially with more than 7 million first-time voters in the March 24 election.
The political tides in Bangkok may be in favour of the Future Forward Party and the Phalang Pracharat Party for now. But history shows this is not the end of the story.
Thai Citizen and Palang Dharma parties used to be hugely popular in Bangkok, but they both fell out with Bangkok voters and finally faded from the political scene.
But the Democrat Party, whose then-new face Abhisit was the only Democrat MP in Bangkok in the 1996 election, managed to impress Bangkok voters about a decade later.
Only time will tell who Bangkok residents will vote for next time.