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New Bangkok Governor

Social media playing an increasing role in election campaigns

The Bangkok governor election showed that social media has become deeply embedded in politics, serving not only as a timely communications channel between candidates and constituents but also as a comprehensive news source for the mass media and people interested in monitoring the progress of polling throughout the day, plus the counting and announcement of the outcome.

People have turned to social networks, mainly Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, in several elections in the past, but this time these apps played their most significant role. Their users have mushroomed and this time the poll was in the capital, which has the biggest ratio of social media users and is ranked as the top social media city.

This is the first time that the Bangkok Election Commission has issued rules for using social media during an election. The announcement raised awareness among the public - between 6pm on Saturday and 3pm on Sunday, people have to use care in remarks about the election status on their pages.

On election day, most of the people who went to vote took a photo and updated their social media status to confirm that they had exercised their citizen's right already. Actors, actresses and singers also shared voting pictures on their social media channels, especially Instagram.

Reporters standing by at election venues also chose social media to report developments as they unfolded minute by minute all day.

Before election day, Chompol Chao Koh, director of Huai Khwang district, produced a video of dancing to Harlem Shake to promote the election and uploaded it to YouTube.

Many people made their stance on the Bangkok election known by declaring who they would vote for. They also tried to convince friends and followers to vote for the same candidate by giving their reasons.

However, this election was the first to see one candidate, Suharit Siamwalla, so active on social media. He seemed to get good support from users, who bombarded his social media sites with photos and messages.

@suharit has 68,959 followers on Twitter and more than 5,100 friends on Facebook, but he could not convert all his friends and followers on social media into real votes.

At least he proved that social networks can be a viable way to promote an election campaign for someone like him on a low budget, as he is an independent candidate with no political party back-up.

MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra from the Democrat Party, who has more than 242,000 followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram combined, although there might be some overlap, chose to focus on a conventional election campaign rather than use social media. But he agreed on the growing role of social media.




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