The election for the governor of Bangkok was won by the opposition

BANGKOK – Residents of Thailand’s capital Bangkok have elected an independent politician seen as representing opponents of the country’s military-backed government in their first opportunity in nine years to vote for their city’s governor, according to those released early Monday results showed.

Chadchart Sittipunt had been widely predicted to be the front runner in opinion polls, but he significantly surpassed expectations by winning 1,386,215 votes, or nearly 52% of the 2,673,696 votes cast in Sunday’s election, according to virtually complete but uncertified results .

He ran in a field of 31 candidates, with a turnout of just under 61%.

Chadchart, 55, despite running as an independent, has been seen by both supporters and opponents as a proxy for Pheu Thai, the main opposition group in parliament. He served as transport minister in a Pheu Thai government from 2012 to 2014 and ran in the 2019 general election as one of the party’s prime ministerial candidates.

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“Now that we have an order from the people, I would start work immediately and visit communities and areas to see where I could start my work as governor as soon as possible,” Chadchart told reporters Monday morning . “I have a young, dynamic and active team.”

The independent candidate, seen as a stand-in candidate for the ruling Palang Pracharath party, finished a poor fifth place in the race. Former Bangkok Governor Aswin Kwanmuang, a retired senior police official, came fifth with 214,692 votes, or about 8% of the votes cast.

Asawin, 71, was appointed governor in 2016 by Prayut Chan-ocha, who took power as army commander in a 2014 coup and sacked the previous governor on corruption charges. Prayut became prime minister again after the 2019 election in a coalition government led by the military-backed Palang Pracharath party.

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Prayut, who has been accused of fumbling with the response to the coronavirus pandemic, is expected to soon face a motion of no confidence in Parliament and there have long been rumors that rivals on his own side are trying to remove him. Even if he survives, parliamentary elections must be held early next year.

Political science professor Thitinan Pongsudhirak of Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University noted ahead of the vote that it was the first significant election since the 2014 coup.

“People want to have a say,” he said in an email to The Associated Press. “The result, if clearly contrary to ruling Palang Pracharath, would be consequential for Parliament, Prayut and distrust.”

While the Bangkok election results are discouraging for Prayut and the ruling party, they are not a deathblow.

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While there were ideological reasons that swayed many voters, Chadchart is also one of the country’s most charismatic politicians, campaigning vigorously compared to the relatively colorless bureaucrat Asawin.

More importantly, Bangkok voters do not necessarily reflect national trends in Thailand, whose voters are largely rural. The ruling Palang Pracharath party mobilized many rural voters in the 2019 elections with the support of influential local and provincial political bosses.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/05/23/bangkok-governors-election-handily-won-by-opposition-figure/ The election for the governor of Bangkok was won by the opposition

Joel McCord

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