Democrat loss in the capital would be disastrous
Re: "Bangkok poll is critical for the govt and Thaksin", February 19.
Your recent column attempts to turn the tables on the expectations game in Bangkok's upcoming gubernatorial election. The author, Avudh Panananda, is right about one thing: the race has big national implications. His column, however, overlooks the fact that the Democrat Party and its leader, Abhisit Vejjajiva, have a lot more riding on the outcome than the government, Pheu Thai, or former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The city of Bangkok has been a Democrat stronghold for decades. No candidate associated with Thaksin has ever come close to winning this race. In fact no candidate backed by the Thai Rak Thai, Palang Prachachon or Pheu Thai has ever received any more than 30 per cent of the votes in a Bangkok gubernatorial election.
It would no doubt be a great accomplishment for the Pheu Thai candidate, Police General Pongsapat Pongcharoen, to win the governorship. But it is far-fetched to claim that failing to win a race once widely considered unwinnable, against an incumbent no less, would in any way weaken the government's position, or for that matter Thaksin's.
The person who has the most riding on this race is Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva, who has presided over a series of electoral disasters for the party. Losing the governorship would effectively return the Democrat Party to the low point it reached in the 2005 general election, when it managed to win only a dozen seats outside the South and was soundly defeated by Thai Rak Thai in most Bangkok constituencies.
Considering that the intervening time has seen the Democrats benefit from a military coup, the dissolution of four rival parties and the disqualification of 200 rival politicians, it would be a sign of rare incompetence for Abhisit to take the party back down to its 2005 level.
That might explain why Abhisit is campaigning with such vigour, despite his less than idyllic relationship with the incumbent governor. Should the Democrats lose its principal stronghold, even Abhisit's most dedicated supporters might finally take notice of just how disastrous his leadership has been. This time, Abhisit cannot afford to presume that his colleagues and his voters will misread the significance of this election as badly as your columnist appears to misjudge it.
Then again, I understand the need to manage expectations. Given that the race is still winnable, it is only natural that Abhisit and his supporters would position themselves to spin a possible victory, even one by the narrowest of margins, as evidence that "real Thais" voted against Thaksin.
Counsel to the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship