11 July 2024

Bangkok gubernatorial election made a big mockery of pollsters in 2013, when they expected M.R. Sukhumbhand Paribatra to lose heavily, only for him to win his second term with the highest number of votes ever. Current popularity surveys ahead of next month’s vote, therefore, can be taken with a grain of salt.

However, the latest work by the Thammasat University’s Research and Consultancy Institute is interesting in many ways, not least because it covered more than 20,000 eligible voters, far more than samples of similar polls on the popularity of candidates. In each of those other polls, just over a thousand people were interviewed. The TU-RAC survey also spanned all age groups, professions, and education backgrounds.

Conducted between April 15-April 22 with each Bangkok district having at least 400 representatives surveyed, it yielded some surprises and offered some insights into intertwined relations between Bangkok’s and national politics. Here are what we have learned from the poll’s results, which are significantly different from those of similar albeit lower-scale surveys:

  1. Chadchart Sittipunt’s lead is not THAT BIG. He received about 28 percent of support, with second-place Suchatvee Suwansawat of the Democrat Party trailing at about 22 percent despite all the trouble battering Thailand’s oldest political camp. A 28 versus 22 percentage gap can be vast in elections, but Chadchart had been perceived to be enjoying a much more comfortable run, with the chasing pack being no more than “decorative” participants.
  2. In addition to seeking a new governor to tackle long-standing problems like traffic nightmares and poor city planning, Bangkok will be an ideological fighting venue comes May 22. Aswin Kwanmuang, who served as Bangkok governor in the Prayut government and is running in this election, came third at about 14.7 percent, leapfrogging Move Forward candidate Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn who had about 10.2 percent backing. The two have switched rankings when the previous Thammasat poll is taken into account.  Wiroj had been 11.8 percent that time, compared with Aswin’s 11.3 percent. The latter used to be as low as 5.4 percent once but seems to be enjoying a continuous rise in popularity.
  3. Undecided voters are dropping fast. They used to constitute the biggest group among eligible voters in various opinion polls but with the dust clearing thanks to finalized registration of candidates, people now know who’s fielding whom and who are competing independently. The undecided made up just over 10 percent in this latest TU-RAC survey, compared with over 20 percent sometimes in the past.
  4. Sex allegations involving Prinn Panitchpakdi does not seem to have a big impact on the Democrat Party in this election, at least not yet. Suchatvee has actually received bigger support compared with 18.3 percent previously. It has to be stressed that the Thammasat pollsters conducted their latest survey in the middle of this month when the Prinn controversy must be peaking.
  5. The other candidates may have mountains to climb. Below Wiroj, the rest of the runners were all below 10 percent each. The closest to Wiroj is Sita Diwari of the Thai Sang Thai Party, with 7.41 percent. The iron lady and independent candidate, Rosana Tositrakul, was just 2.44 percent.

Conclusion: This is not entirely bad news for Chadchart. It used to be that even if the popularity percentages of all other candidates were combined, he would still win. As the Thammasat poll seems to suggest, that is no longer the case. However, popularity being spread out more and still leading can also give him big hope. While Suchatvee and Aswin would fight to take some support off him, they would have to fight each other, too. Simply put, the chasing bunch would, in addition to trying to overcome Chadchart, will have to attempt to take votes off one another as well.

In sports, sometimes lowered expectations benefit hot favorites. It can be more or less the same for Chadchart. Whereas a landslide looks harder, he still stands a great chance, although that was what all pollsters said about Pongsapat Pongcharoen when he competed against Sukhumbhand in 2013.

By Tulsathit Taptim