Senior citizens set agenda for next governor
The Bangkok gubernatorial race took a curious turn after an advocacy group for senior citizens wanted to sway the votes to their liking.
In about three days, the elderly will learn at first hand whether they can make an impact on the March 3 balloting outcome.
For the past few weeks, campaign billboards have been sprouting up on main roads, such as Sukhumvit, in the inner city areas. These billboards do not belong to the 25 candidates in the race but to a group called Elderenergy (phalang soong wai).
The billboards call for Bangkok residents to take part in a cyber-vote via Elderenergy Facebook to indicate their preference on the to-do list for the next Bangkok governor.
The Facebook page has shown a lively debate involving more than 9,000 people on a given day.
Elderenergy is being spearheaded by six prominent senior citizens.
The six include former senator Pramote Maiklad, Magsaysay Award winner and pharmacist Krisana Kraisintu, and horticulturalist Rapee Sagarik.
The other three are graft buster Banlu Siripanit, environmental advocate Yongyuth Chanyarak, and Teerarat Chuamnat, an educator for vagrant children.
Their key messages to the next governor include sensible zoning to prevent flooding and clogged waterways, medications for impure thoughts, treating senior citizens as productive forces instead of social burdens, and educating homeless children instead of spawning future criminals.
One way to look at the Elderenergy campaign is that the senior citizens have made a smart move to use the race as their platform to call attention to the idea that society should utilise the collective wisdom of the elders instead of putting them out to pasture.
The campaign's messages have been designed to emphasise a sustainable solution to each civic issue.
The subtext of these messages is a rejection of the populism championed by former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and the Pheu Thai Party.
All six campaign leaders are known for their staunch opposition to populist policies. The campaign is reportedly financed by the Thai Health Promotion Foundation, an advocacy for sustainable healthcare with big coffers supported by sin taxes.
Although the campaign's billboards do not push for the victory or defeat of a specific candidate, the underlying message is clear - vote against populism.
Of all 25 candidates in the race, Pheu Thai's Pongsapat Pongcharoen is the only one who might have to face the ripple effect of anti-populism sentiment.
When the six campaign leaders organised a meeting with gubernatorial candidates last month at Lumpini Park, Pongsapat was absent without explanation. His Democrat rival MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra received undivided attention for showcasing his policies for senior citizens.
Regardless of the voting outcome, the elders have proved they are still a force to be reckoned with.
Like old foxes, the Elderenergy campaigners remain cunning despite their advancing age. Who else but they could have come up with an unprecedented strategy to highlight sustainability in order to take a swipe at populism, thus pulling the rug from under Pongsapat?
On Sunday, Bangkok voters will cast their ballots. But their voice might shed light on which of the rival camps, anti- and pro-Thaksin, prevails rather than choose the right governor for the job.