Several other Democrats are offering to stand as candidates for the opposition party in the Bangkok gubernatorial election early next year, mounting pressure on current governor Sukhumbhand Paripatra to reconsider the decision to run for a second term.
Sukhumbhand has consistently expressed his intention to run for a second term although key men in the party have never made clear if they would pick up him as their official candidate.
Sukhumbhand has a solid academic background as a former Chulalongkorn University lecturer. He entered politics in the late 1980s when he joined the advisory team for the late prime minister Chatichai Choonhavan. It was the Democrat key man Suthep Thaugsuban who brought him to the party after the Chatichai administration was toppled by a military coup.
Sukhumbhand became well known when he was deputy foreign minister and proposed himself as a hostage to Myanmar students who stormed the Myanmar embassy in Bangkok in 1999.
Residents in the capital have been less enamoured with his work as governor and the Democrats are still reluctant to endorse him as their candidate for the coming election. A party source said Sukhumbhand had conducted an internal poll asking representatives in 27 branches of the party in the capital to endorse his candidacy. He claimed that if Khunying Sudarat Keyuraphan from Pheu Thai would not run, he would win.
Sudarat recently said on her Facebook wall that she was not ready to run in the gubernatorial elections. Meanwhile, Pol General Pongsapat Pongcharoen said he was waiting to discuss the issue with Pheu Thai executives before deciding whether he should leave his post as deputy police chief and secretary-general of the Narcotics Control Board and represent the party in the race for the governor’s post.
Political analysts said Democrat leaders had wanted former finance minister Korn Chatikavanij as the candidate. With his family and personal background, they felt he had strong support from the elite and well-educated voters in Bangkok.
However Korn signalled earlier that he had higher ambition than the position of Bangkok governor. He wanted to wait for something bigger in national politics.
Another big name floated to compete with Sukhumbhand is former deputy premier Korbsak Sabhavasu, who has long experience in politics. A party source said Korbsak had proposed himself at a candidate because he really wanted to work in the job.
Two more Democrats who have emerged as rivals to Sukhumbhand are former MP Prakob Jirakitti and Apichai Techa-ubon, a former vice minister at PM’s Office.
Prakob may be a little low profile but he is not unpopular, as he was a former party director. He served as deputy governor to Sukhumbhand for a short period. He is close to former secretary general Suthep.
The least popular figure is Apichai. He has ties with former commerce minister Alongkorn Ponlaboot but has had no major role in the party.
The party’s selection committee is considering the qualification of all candidates and will make its final decision on Monday.
Party leader Abhisit Vejjajiva said Sukhumbhand was a disciplined member of the party. He would accept the party’s decision.
“I’m confident in the party’s selection process. There will be no rift within the party after the selection,” he said.
Sukhumbhand said he has never put any pressure on the party to choose him as its candidate in the election but would respect its decision. “If the party has good reasons for not picking me up as the candidate, I will have no problem,” he said.