Bangkok to be major battle ground for election : Abhisit

Bangkok is likely to become a decisive battle ground to determine whether the Democrats or rivals will claim victory to lead the next government, Democrat Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said Saturday.

"The race is expected to be intense - though not anticipated to degenerate into social divisions, and the victory in Bangkok is crucial for Democrats to have a chance at running the country," he said.

Abhisit spoke at a press conference to unveil 36 candidates for direct voting in 12 Bangkok constituencies.

All major parties plan to field topnotched candidates in the capital and three leading contenders for the position of prime minister are partylist candidates competing to woo Bangkok voters via proportionate voting. The three are Abhisit, Samak Sundaravej of People Power Party and Prachai Leopairatana of Matchima Thipataya.

The registration for constituency candidates vying for 400 House seats up for grabs wll begin tomorrow and ends on Friday in 157 constituencies nationwide.

Bangkok Governor Apirak Kosayodhin pledged campaign hard for his party's candidates in his capacity as a ranking Democrat.

"I have already notified the Election Commission about my planned campaigning activities which will take place outside the office hours and not relating to any official duties," he said.

Apirak said he was confident that Bangkok residents would vote for the Democrats based on the merits of campaign policies which have been formulated from the people's inputs to serve the public needs.

Wellknown personalites running under the Democrat banner include party spokesman Ongart Klampaiboon in Bangkok's constituency 12 covering Bang Phlat, Bangkok Noi and Taling Chan.

Two lawmakers and antiThaksin campaigners, Samran Rodphet and Prapan Koonmee, will run in Bangkok's constituency 7 covering Bang Kapi, Saphan Sung and Min Buri.

Two firsttime candidates, Sakolthee Phattiyakul and Kongsak Yodmani, will woo votes in constituency 4 (Bang Sue, Lak Si, Chatuchak and Phaya Thai) and constituency 5 (Bang Khen, Sai Mai and Don Mueang). Sokoltee is the son of junta secretary General Winai Phattiyakul and Kongsak's father is Tourism and Sports Minister Suvit Yodmani.

The Puea Paendin Party released 30 names of 36 candidates for Bangkok constituencies one day after the Matchima Thipataya Party named its 36 candidates with a projection of a total victory for Bangkok seats.

Highprofile candidates under the Puea Paendin banner are former lawmaker Nitipoom Navarat and his son Netipoom. Olympic bronze medalist Wichai Rachanon is trying to launch his political career by capitalising on his boxing prowess.

Party leader Suwit Khunkitti said his party will highlight policies on the environment, the elderly and the quality of life in order to sway Bangkok votes.

"If elected, Puea Paendin will transform Bangkok into a happiness centre within four years," he said.

The People Power Party is scheduled today to unveil its 36 candidates for Bangkok seats.

Election Commission member Prapun Naigowit said he was consulting with parties concerned in order to assign the same ballot numbers for parties via proportionate voting and for constituency candidates via direct voting in Bangkok.

"Because of a large number of constituency candidates, voters would have to memorise too many numbers if each candidate is assigned a number," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Sonthi Boonyaratglin said the campaign against vote buying was in progress.

"Authorities nationwide are involved in raising awareness about money politics and harmful consquences," he said.

He said he would cooperate with electoral officials in the fight against campaign violations.

General Prem Tinsulanonda, president of the Privy Council, urged voters to screen candidates based on their individual merits.

"I hope the people will elect only good individuals as their reprensentatives," he said, voicing confident that the country would overcome the turmoil following a free and fair election.


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