Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Thailand's Local Election

In the latest Bangkok-district-councilor election, held on 6 June, the Democrat Party has scored a landslide victory over its key rival, the Phuea Thai.

From this election, the Democrat has snatched up to 79 Bangkok-district-councilor seats from 10 electorates. The Phuea Thai, meanwhile, has grasped just 26 seats from three electorates.

Defeat for Phuea Thai
With such results, even the Phuea Thai has to concede its political defeat in this local election. The Phuea Thai, in fact, used to dominate the scene. Before 6 June, Phuea Thai members had served as Bangkok district councilors in up to 10 electorates. The Democrat, back then, had held the Bangkok-district-councilor seats in three electorates only. Today, the tides have clearly changed.

The Democrat Party's victory over the latest local election has received just little news coverage, though. Perhaps, this is because the Bangkok-district-councilor polling is just a local election.
Still, many groups of people have pointed out that the Phuea Thai Party has suffered the defeat in the latest Bangkok-district-councilor election mainly because of the recent red shirts' riot in Bangkok. The red shirts have been active under the United Front of Democracy against Dictatorship (UDD) banner. (UDD and Phuea Thai are closely linked).

War Against Red-Shirts Movement
Another key element in the Phuea Thai's defeat is perhaps the Center for the Resolution of the Emergency (CRES) orders that bar the 111 executives of the now-defunct Thai Rak Thai Party and people with close links to the old power bloc from making financial transactions. (Phuea Thai is a reincarnation of the Thai Rak Thai).

Some Phuea Thai key members, who oversee the party's affairs in Bangkok, believe the government's propaganda war against the red-shirt movement has also contributed to the Phuea Thai's failure to fly high at the Bangkok-district-councilor election. During the past few months, the government has communicated a lot with people and such communications have the power to influence Bangkok residents to favor the ruling party's candidates in the Bangkok-district-councilor election.

In fact, when the UDD kicked off their latest rally in mid-March, it expected to campaign for the 'class war'. The UDD leaders successfully mobilized a large number of rural people to the capital and they expected 'the middle class' in Bangkok to jump into the bandwagon. The UDD leaders no longer intended to attract just grass-root people.

Cope With Public Suspicion
However, when the red-shirt rally dragged on, the UDD 'stepped up the pressure' on the government through various techniques. In the end, the red activities against the elites adversely affected the 'normal life' of Bangkok residents in general. To Bangkok people, they felt the 'risks' every time the red shirts paraded around the capital and clashed with security officials. The bloody confrontations took place in many parts of Bangkok, and even in nearby provinces.

The red-shirt rally and the bloody incidents on 10 April, 22 April, and 19 May becomes Bangkok residents' nightmare.

Of course, it remains unclear who have commanded the 'men in black' or the 'unidentified armed unit'. But quite a large number of Bangkok people can't help suspecting the red-shirted leaders and their leaders. Not just the government has to cope with the public suspicion.

The government and the red-shirted leaders are the parties in the conflict. To Bangkok people, both parties have played a role in their 'nightmare'.

Do the results of the Bangkok-district-councilor election foretell what will be coming in the general election? Will the Democrat Party snatch most of Bangkok-MP seats? No one can say anything about this at this point of time. Bangkok voters have a unique mindset. The conditions and factors that have influenced their choices at the polling stations are always clearly different from people in other regions.

Power Bloc
Still, one cannot ignore the fact that the Democrat Party's performance has improved hugely in the Bangkok-district-councilor election. And such result reflects to an extent how Bangkok voters 'feel' about the red-shirted leaders. For the time being, it is quite clear whether Bangkok residents 'embrace' or 'reject' the old power bloc.

But the Bangkok-district-councilor election already passed. The government must now think about how to capitalize on 'its good opportunity'. The government, after all, has just defeated the red-shirted leaders outside the Parliament and has just sailed though the censure debate in the Parliament.

Establishment of New Political Party
The government, particularly the Democrat Party, must think about how to keep its huge popularity among people for a long, long time. At the very least, the Democrat Party must make sure that it remains popular among Bangkok residents when the Bangkok Councilor election is held in August.
If the Democrat candidates can snatch most of the Bangkok-councilor seats in the 50 electorates, the Phuea Thai will face a really tough time. Moreover, the Democrat Party's landslide victory in the Bangkok Councilor election -- if takes place -- looks set to send the chill down the spine of Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan. Banned from officially engaging in political activities for five years alongside other former executives of the Thai Rak Thai, Sudarat has reportedly been trying to establish a new political party for Bangkok people. If the Democrat Party can score landslide victory in local Bangkok elections time and again, Sudarat will of course have the need to think twice.

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