Dems anxious to ramp up Sukhumbhand campaign
Two weeks after gubernatorial candidates stepped up campaigns following their registering to run in the poll, the competition for the Bangkok governor's seat remains a two-horse race. Several pollsters say Pheu Thai new-face Pongsapat Pongcharoen enjoys the highest approval rating, with the Democrat Sukhumbhand Paribatra trailing.Concern that Sukhumbhand may not be able to win again has prompted the Democrats to adjust their campaign strategy.
This has already been done although Ong-art Klampaibul, the campaign manager, said earlier the party would not change anything but adhere to its original plan.
Ong-art said Sukhumbhand had an identity that was unchangeable as he has been like that throughout his life. The cam?paign manager was confident Sukhumbhand would capture the lead in the last lap of the race because the party would continue to present him as the one serious in his work, with practical policies - not daydreams.
Initially, the Democrats were happy with Sukhumbhand having an image different from Pongsapat, a party source said. Sukhumbhand is not good at speaking in public while Pongsapat is a talker and can draw laughter when on a campaign stage and audiences love him.
But now, the Democrats have changed Sukhumbhand's campaign style. As part of the changes, Sukhumbhand has been stepping up his campaign to highlight that Bangkok developments could move forward immediately if he is re-elected. The campaign theme now focuses on the key words "moving forward immediately" without the governor having to waste time learning his tasks.
The theme also highlighted that Sukhumbhand would counter the national government's power for the sake of Bangkokians. The Democrats focused on this aspect after it saw that the "seamless cooperation" theme helped to boost Pongsapat's popularity.
Earlier, Sukhumbhand was seen as a royal descendant who was not down-to-earth while Pongsapat could express himself very well to the grassroots. Now, the Democrat campaign staff are keen to get Sukhumbhand to be down-to-earth and cast away any airs and graces. So, he has been seen sitting on the ground among local residents to post for photos with them.
Earlier, the Democrats feared that Sukhumbhand's No 16 could be hard for voters to remember. Now, the party has tried various tactics to get the number frequently mentioned and remembered. So, they have Sukhumbhand buying goods in lots of 16 - buying a lottery ticket with "16" as the last two digits. Sukhumbhand also posed for photos with a vendor who sold vegetables for Bt16 per a kilo.
In another strategy, the Democrats mobilised provincial MPs to help in the campaigning like what Pheu Thai is doing. This work by provincial MPs will be divided into two parts.
First, 26 Democrat MPs from the Central provinces will help with former Democrat candidates to push Sukhumbhand's campaign in outer areas, such as Don Mueang, Bang Plad, and Thawee Wattana. This team is lead by Democrat deputy leader Alongkorn Pollabutr, who is in charge of the Central provinces. The second team is led by Issara Somchai, another deputy leader. It will campaign in areas with people from the Northeast who have already moved their home registrations to the capital.
Key Democrat leaders realise Sukhumbhand's handicap in getting his messages through, so they have enlisted help from MPs who are good at speaking from the Northeast, central, northern and southern regions. They include the party leader and deputies and executives, as well as Bangkok councillors and district councillors.
The Democrats also plan major rallies around the capital. For example, the party has held rallies at Kosum Market in Don Mueang, at Lumpini Park and Wong Wien Yai. The last rally will be held at Benjasiri Park on March 1. During the rallies, key speakers will attack Pongsapat's weak points, such as promising beyond the governor's authority and could attack his personal life.
After seeing Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra play a leading role in begging support for Pongsapat, the Democrats will follow suit. It has mobilised key leaders such as Korn Chatikavanij and Apirak Kosayothin, to help. When the campaign moved to shopping malls, Democrat leader Abhisit Vejjajiva himself stepped in to help. The closer the election day draws near, the more key leaders will step up efforts to help Sukhumbhand in all areas.
Another card the Democrat may unveil to improve Sukhumbhand's situation is to announce a team of deputy governors.
Democrat leaders still believe its network of Bangkok and district councillors and Sukhumbhand's ability to continue his work, plus his realistic policies will help him gain momentum.
The party will also focus more on living conditions and life security, such as taking care of the elderly, and launching mass transit lines to deal with traffic problems caused by the central government's first-car policy.
These are strategies that the party will use all-out to help the former governor recapture his seat as the party has more than the seat of Bangkok seat at stake. If Sukhumbhand is beaten, it could mean that the Democrats would fail to prevent Pheu Thai from intruding into its key stronghold, Bangkok.