Turnout, not ideas, to decide city race
The race for the position of Bangkok governor has been very low key, raising concerns that voter turnout on March 3 will be correspondingly low.The 25 candidates seem to lack the pizzazz to draw voters out of their homes to decide on issues they feel passionate about.
If the final two weeks of campaigning see the same old tactics to sway votes, then the balloting outcome will reflect the power base of each candidate, rather than the arrival of a clear voice to chart the future of Bangkok.
All candidates have, unfortunately, mapped out shallow platforms that fail to bring out the vibrancy of the capital and its residents.
Of the candidates in the race, only five have managed to grab attention. Two, MR Sukhumbhand Paribatra and Pongsapat Pongcharoen, are running under the respective banners of the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties.
Three, Sereepisuth Temiyavej, Kosit Suvinijjit and Suharit Siamwalla, are independent candidates.
At the start of campaigning, the five tried to showcase so many policies that they became a blur to voters.
Instead of making their platforms stand out, the candidates opted to convince voters to choose either a partisan line or an independent ticket.
Sukhumbhand and Pongsapat have tried to marginalise the independent candidates while at the same time attempting to outshine one another on whether the city would be best served by the Democrats, who are in opposition at the national level, or the country's ruling party.
The three independents collectively presented themselves as a viable alternative to the two major political parties. But they did not elaborate how they would get the job done without partisan support.
None of the three has even prepared an administrative team that is ready to assume office should they be elected.
In the finishing stretch of the campaign, leading candidates are trying to trump their rivals and clinch the balloting outcome.
Sukhumbhand has made a last-minute appeal to women, promising healthcare benefits such as free screening for breast and cervical cancer.
His latest campaign slogan emphasises continuity between his first term and, if elected, his second.
What the Democrats omit to mention is his unimpressive first term. Even Sukhumbhand himself seems to have no recollection of his job performance in the city administration.
Based on opinion polls, Pongsapat is leading the race. The strength of his candidacy relies, however, on the Pheu Thai's banner as well as the popularity of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, who has made several appearances with Pongsapat on the campaign trail.
The ruling party is pinning its hopes for victory on the seamless cooperation between the central government and the city administration to improve on the mass-transit system.
Of the three independents, Sereepisuth has the largest network of supporters, including certain cliques in the People's Alliance for Democracy and those Democrats disenchanted with Sukhumbhand.
He kick-started his campaign portraying himself as a crime buster, before morphing into an experienced administrator. He has vowed to increase Bangkok's public park space if elected.
Kosit is campaigning on a platform of offering 24/7 services to city residents. He also sees himself as someone with the capability to steer the city administration out of the vengeful politics engaged in by the ruling and the opposition parties.
Suharit has compared his first campaigning efforts to walking a million steps in order to gain first-hand experience on the city's problems.
The independents have, however, a remote chance of victory. The March 3 voting outcome will depend on how well the Democrat and Pheu Thai parties can mobilise their constituents to the polling stations.