Notoriously fickle Bangkok voters could deliver shock result on Sunday
Many Bangkokians say they will have a “difficult decision” to make on Sunday when they come to vote for their next governor. With information hitting them from all directions and so many interesting candidates, choosing the right one is no easy feat.
Hence, we may see a few surprises when the result of Sunday’s election is announced.
“It’s going to be my toughest voting decision ever,” said Oranuch, a 48-year-old Bangkokian who chose not to reveal her surname. “After listening to the debates, several contenders have caught my interest.”
Like many other voters in the capital, Oranuch now thinks she will probably wait until the last minute before making her choice.
She knows, after all, that the leading contenders, are preparing to deliver grand speeches to woo voters at the eleventh hour.
Too many good choices?
Voters with a conservative mindset are likely to be interested in at least four contenders, namely Suchatvee Suwansawat of the Democrat Party and independent candidates Sakoltee Phattiyakul, Pol General Aswin Kwanmuang, and Rosana Tositrakul.
Pro-democracy voters, meanwhile, are likely to lean more toward Move Forward Party’s Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, independent candidate Chadchart Sittipunt and Thai Sang Thai Party’s Sita Divari.
Despite Chadchart taking the lead in opinion surveys over the past few months, Dr. Stithorn Thananitichot – director of Innovation for Democracy under the King Prajadhipok’s Institute – said anything could happen over the next few days.
Suree (surname withheld), a 77-year-old former university lecturer, said she initially intended to vote for Suchatvee before former yellow-shirt leader Sondhi Limthongkul voiced his support for Rosana, promoting her many abilities and qualifications.
“Now, I feel like I want to give Rosana a chance. But I will give myself more time to think about which candidate is really the best,” the retiree said.
Over 167,000 officials, volunteers to support Bangkok’s elections this Sunday
Graphic designer Wisarut, 34, has always answered promptly when asked who he would choose for the governor’s job.
“It has to be a person who listens to complaints and solves problems,” has been his reply.
Wisarut admitted, however, that he has changed his mind every week recently as more and more information on gubernatorial candidates’ policies is revealed.
“I have been following news through various online platforms, including Facebook and Twitter,” he said. “I also enjoy listening to candidates’ debates.”
Asst Prof Tavida Kamolvej, dean of Thammasat University’s Faculty of Political Science, believes it will be difficult to predict whom Bangkok voters will elect this Sunday.
“Many factors will influence Bangkokians’ voting decision,” she said.
For instance, she said, though older voters tend to stick to a specific political party or ideology, even they may change their mind. As for young voters, they may give an advantage to the Move Forward candidate. Meanwhile, Chadchart’s open working style and outgoing personality may impress some young voters.
Divided by age
Some 4.41 million Bangkokians are eligible to vote in the gubernatorial election. Of them, 16 percent are aged between 18 and 27 years old. Meanwhile, those in the 28 to 40 age gap account for 23 percent. Those aged 41-50 make up 19 percent and those aged 51-60, 18 percent. Those aged 61 and above account for 24 percent.
These demographics suggest that though young voters may have a big say, Baby Boomers (57-75) will have as much if not more influence over the result.
Tactical voting could win Bangkok governor election for conservatives
Thawilwadee Bureekul, director of the Research and Development Office under King Prajadhipok’s Institute, said Bangkok voters are considered fickle because history has shown there is a high chance of them changing their minds in the run-up to the election.
“Bangkokians keep an eye on news and trends. If something big is leaked a few days before the election, it can affect voters’ decision,” she pointed out.
Thawilwadee said Bangkok opinion surveys tend not to be very accurate because people keep changing their minds and some respondents may provide false answers to “please” the pollsters.
“I would also like to point out that people who tend to make their decision at the last minute are usually experienced voters who follow the news and take their duty to vote as citizens seriously,” she added.
Thawilwadee said some voters make strategic decisions on where their vote goes at the last minute. For instance, if they believe that voting for their favored candidate would help their least favorite to win, they will vote for someone else whose policies and ideologies are close to theirs and their favorite candidate.
Voting behavior in Bangkok
Judging by the choices made over the past several decades, Bangkokians tend to opt for candidates who are not linked to the government camp.
Former governors Apirak Kosayodhin and MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra were among the very few to be elected while their party was part of a coalition government. Apirak won the 2004 and 2008 elections, while Sukhumbhand won in 2009 and 2013, before being removed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in 2016.
Bhichit Rattakul, who has close ties with the Democrat Party, was chosen in 1996.
Voter turnout has been on an upward trend in the past five decades since the first Bangkok gubernatorial election in 1975, when just 13.86 percent voted. That figure rose to 34.66 percent in 1985, 35.85 percent in 1990, before dipping to 23.08 percent in 1992, then 43.53 percent in 1996, 58.87 percent in 2000, 62.50 percent in 2004, 54.18 percent in 2008, 51.10 percent in 2009 and 63.98 percent in 2013.
No Bangkok elections have been held over the past nine years following the 2014 military coup.
By Thai PBS World’s Political Desk