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Bangkok voters set to send message

Live update on the Bangkok gubernatorial election

Everyone says today is the day Bangkok voters will send a political message with more implications than who they want to lead garbage collection and supervise flood prevention. Whoever wins today’s gubernatorial election and by how much will tell about how Bangkokians think about the national divide, Thaksin Shinawatra, the Democrat Party and future political course of the country as a whole.

This story will be updated with key developments, some rants and readers’ opinions or questions. My email is tulsathit01@gmail.com and my twitter account is @tulsathit

You can read yesterday’s live update here http://www.nationmultimedia.com/politics/Bangkok-election-Who-will-have-the-last-laugh-30201094.html It addressed chances of the two big parties, something I can’t do today without police knocking on my door.

Sunday, 10.20 am: The poll has opened for some time now and it has given big-turnout hopers big hope. The EC expects it to exceed 60 per cent. To me, that’s a bit ambitious. Every election day starts in a lively manner like this in Bangkok, only for the final turnout to make your jaws drop for the wrong reason.

Sunday, 11 am: Election laws mean it’s extremely boring on Twitter and news web sites where only reports about the city gubernatorial poll have to do with which celebrity has voted where. By the way, just to tell you how close the press think this race is going to be, many newspapers have written analyses on opposing scenarios. Half of what’s been written will have to be thrown away this evening, of course.

Sunday, 1 pm: Will rain, which came out of a clear blue sky, affect the outcome. In many areas it reportedly looks like 7 pm already. Not just summer drizzle. The losers will surely say heaven cries for them. To those who haven’t voted yet, probably got caught in traffic, learn your lesson.

Sunday, 1.05 pm: Newsrooms are buzzing with initial exit poll results, which, ahem, I’m not going to tell you now.

Sunday, 3.45 pm: Edge-of-your-seat vote count has begun, with Sukhumbhand taking a surprise lead, defying all exit polls that had Pongsapat win by between 2-4 per cent.

Sunday, 3.50 pm: Sukhumbhand noted that exit polls once had his predecessor Apirak Kosayodhin losing. Exit polls also had the Democrats lose the general election in the city in 2011. Those exit polls turned out to be very wrong, he said. Sukhumbhand still has slight lead over Pongsapat in real count at this point.

Sunday, 4.05 pm: Analysts on TV say the gap between the winner and first runner-up will be tens of thousands (not as wide as 100,000 or more). As of now, slightly over 300,000 votes have gone to Sukhumbhand, leading by a bit over 40,000 votes.

Sunday, 4.30 pm: Sukhumbhand is approaching 400,000 vote mark, leading by more than 66,000 votes. More than 50 per cent of votes have been counted.

Sunday, 4.45 pm: Sukhumbhand is leading by slightly over 60,000 votes at this point. In previous city gubernatorial polls, you may have switched to sports channels or check websites for evening movie showtimes. It’s different this time. People remain glued to broadcast of live count.

Sunday, 5 pm: Quote of the day so far belongs to Sukhumbhand. "Real man waits for real poll". At this stage, he’s leading by 69,000 votes.

Sunday, 5.10 pm: "You were right not to be overexcited by exit polls" one told me. It was by default. I was driving when everybody was going crazy about them. And let me caution everyone yet again, there’s still a long way to go in vote count.

Sunday, 5.15 pm: A TV commentator has made a good point. He said unusually low support for independent candidates could mean many voters who earlier intended to vote for the independents changed their minds in the last minute. "They may have decided before marking the ballots that they wanted their votes to matter," he said.

Sunday, 5.20 pm: Every senior politician, every TV commentator, every high-profile party supporter are careful now not to do an exit poll. They all say "It’s not over yet."

Sunday, 5.35 pm: Is it possible pro-Sukhumbhand voters told exit pollsters something else, like they voted for an independent? Only final result can tell.

Sunday, 6 pm: TV shows concert atmosphere at the Democrats’ headquarters now. On the other hand, at the Pheu Thai headquarters, it’s very quiet, with supporters who celebrated exit polls earlier looking very solemn. Again, commentators say Sukhumbhand can’t relax until he gets like 800,000 votes while keeping a 70,000-vote gap.

Sunday, 6.10 pm: Sukhumbhand has surpassed 1 million votes, leading Pongsapat by more than 100,000 votes. Pheu Thai is expected to make an official announcement very soon.

Sunday, 6.15 pm: Urgent: Yingluck, in choked voice, has conceded defeat and congratulated Sukhumbhand.

Sunday, 6.20 pm: Yingluck promised to work "seamlessly" with Sukhumbhand. Latest count has Sukhumbhand, who has won over 1 million votes, lead Pongsapat by way over 100,00 votes. That’s unassailable lead.

Well, Bangkokians, I salute your unpredictability. Fooling pre-election pollsters is one thing, turning exit polls on their heads is quite another. Congratulations to Sukhumbhand. Pongsapat, on the other hand, has put up a great fight and did extremely well in keeping national politics out of it.

Sunday, 6.30 pm: Sukhumbhand said exit polls failed because "Thais have different culture" from Americans or Europeans in that "we don’t go about saying publicly [which politician] we love". True or not, that comes from a man who was much-taunted but seems to be on his way to become the gubernatorial election winner with the biggest number of votes. It’s a truely exciting race. Thank you everybody who has followed this major political event with me. See you again next time.


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