Bangkok elects city governor amid doubts about real change

Bangkok – AFP

Voters in Bangkok cast their ballots on Sunday to elect the city’s governor, in the first large-scale ballot since Thailand’s 2020 pro-democracy protests to demand reform of the monarchy and society.

The last election of this kind in the capital dates back to 2013.

A year later, the army chief Prayuth Shan-o-sha seized power in the kingdom after a coup d’état that removed the ruler and appointed one of his men in his place.

The ballot, which will take place in one round, is a test of the coup general, to whom controversial elections have legitimized in 2019, and whose term expires next March. So a general election has to be held by this time.

During the campaign, the leading candidates focused on the daily issues of Bangkok residents, pledging to improve the lives of this huge city of about 10 million people, which suffers from severe pollution and overcrowding.

Many expressed skepticism. “I’m not enthusiastic about the elections,” said Nat, 28, after casting his vote. It will never change the city.”

4.4 million Bangkok residents were called to vote, 700,000 of whom were first-time voters, likely to favor anti-government candidates.

Since the 2006 and 2014 coups, Thai politics has been linked to pro- or anti-military parties. The record number of about 30 candidates running to lead the capital reflects this division.

Among the candidates is the current Bangkok governor Aswin Kwamwang, who was appointed by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in 2016. He is challenged by Shadchart Sitipunt, who is the frontrunner.

The latter presents himself independently after he was for a long time a major figure in the “Phu Thai” party opposed to former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. While Fu Tai has not named any candidate, some observers question the reality of Citipunt’s independence.

The giant city is completely different from most regions of the Kingdom, and is poorer, more agricultural, and less educated.

“Governor’s choice will be an interesting metric for future general elections” given the context of recent years, says Tittinan Pongsodhsrak, professor of political science at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok.

In 2020, the kingdom witnessed huge pro-democracy demonstrations demanding the resignation of the prime minister, a radical amendment of the constitution, which is very biased towards the army, and a major change in the monarchy, which is one of the topics that were taboo in this country; Where the royal family cannot be touched.

The results of the city’s governor’s election may be announced Sunday evening, and will have to be approved by the Electoral Commission.

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