Whispers on the campaign trail
Was Sukhumbhand hurt by the 2011 flood? Does Pongsapat have anti-drugs successes to boast of?In their very first public statement aired on Nation Channel, five candidates running for the Bangkok poll, including Sukhumbhand Paribatra, boasted about their policies, though the more interesting ones seem to come from independent contenders.
DJ Suharit Siamwalla, a social media guru wearing No 17, pledged to launch an app through which residents could evaluate him once a year. He has also launched a 12-point policy, which includes improving and expanding rescue operations and smart bus-stops where commuters can be kept updated on the city buses' movements and estimated arrival time.
Kosit Suwinijjit, a media veteran with No 10, promised to have city officials be available round the clock and the three deputy governors working in three eight-hour shifts. Kosit said the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration should be run by management professionals rather than politicians or candidates tied to political parties.
Sopon Pornchokechai, an expert on urban properties with No 4, said basic problems like motorcyclists riding on pavements and often hitting or harming pedestrians, should be solved immediately before putting in place new projects, such as getting future high rises to include a green area. He also said an "electric bicycles policy" should be put in place so Bangkokians choose to cycle rather than drive.
Democrat candidate Sukhumbhand said he would add another 5,000 rai of green areas in the city in addition to the 5,000 rai he set up during his first term. There will be two public parks, each 50 rai, built at locations he refused to immediately reveal.
He said 24,000 surveillance cameras had been installed would be further connected to all 50 district offices and police stations together with more than 200,000 units installed on private property. He promised to install another 27,000 units in each and every soi in Bangkok if re-elected.
Sereepisuth Temeeyaves, a former national police chief wearing No 11, boasted that his connections with the police would help him make Bangkok safe and secure. He also vowed to provide free food for the homeless and destitute at every Buddhist temple in Bangkok so people are not tempted to commit crimes.
Pheu Thai's Pongsapat Pongcharoen, wearing No 9, launched a rally near the BMA headquarters with many party executives and high-profile Cabinet members including Information and Communications Technology Minister Anudith Nakornthap making campaign speeches.
Earlier in the morning, Pongsapat said he was happy because "No 9 ["gaow" in Thai, which also stands for stepping ahead] is our favourite number because it is an important step for Bangkok. I thank you all, as from today we will walk together to bring victory to Bangkokians," he said.
Sukhumbhand said he was also happy with his candidacy No 16. "Maybe it is a sign that I will remain the 16th governor for a second term," he said.
As for the many supporters who showed up at City Hall yesterday, they were even more vocal about the prospects of their favourites than the candidates themselves.
Vichian Nianpitak, a supporter of Pongsapat, said that while he is confident about the Pheu Thai candidate, his rival Sukhumbhand still has a wide support base in Bangkok backed by the Democrat Party.
"We have never won [a Bangkok governor's election]. So we must campaign hard," he said, adding even independent Sereepisuth was formidable. "He could be the dark horse."
Vichian said that as Pheu Thai being the ruling party and Pongsapat's sold anti-drugs war should win votes.
Kosit flashes his wealth
At the other extreme were supporters of one rich independent candidate, who look suspiciously beautiful and organised. A dozen or so pretty young women wearing the same orange tight leggings were holding neat placards as if promoting a new product. When one was asked if she was hired for the day, she said no, but when asked what Kosit did for a living, she didn't know.
But a supporter of another independent candidate came out with almost religious zeal. Rakchanok Srimarn said candidate Jamrat Inthumart, had a solid record of saving poor people across the country from bankruptcy through legal battles and preaching His Majesty's "sufficiency economy" principles.
Jamrat, a lawyer, said he was dismayed with the Election Commission's regulation that allows each candidate to spend up to Bt49 million on campaigning. "I will use no more than Bt100,000. It's up to how fair the media will be to [independent] candidates. Otherwise we're no match."
Democrat canvasser Tongchana Somsuwan said that while he believed Sukhumbhand could win, the momentum at this stage may be with new-face Pongsapat and Pheu Thai's well-oiled political machine.
Tongchana acknowledged that the 2011 flood crisis, which left much of Bangkok under water, had also hurt Sukhumbhand's reputation, but he stressed it was not solely the governor's fault. Half the responsibility lay with the government as the flood covered a much larger area.
Some of his friends who were non-committal had recently told him they were leaning towards Pongsapat, but Sukhumbhand and his team would push hard to sell the idea of continuity. "We haven't seen comprehensive policies yet. So we will have to wait and see."
The biggest and most artistic billboard, a rectangular artistic rendition over 2 square metres, belonged to independent candidate No 17, Suharit Siamwalla. However, he had few supporters at the site.
The Nation spotted two: Thiparat Rattanathammas, an employee at DHA Siamwall where Suharit is the boss, said she was counting on the 50 per cent who normally don't vote for her candidate to win. She said Suharit was very active on Twitter and Facebook too.
Leaving City Hall shortly after 9am was Deputy Premier Phongthep Thepkanjana. Asked if Cabinet members could use office hours to campaign, Phongthep said no.But when asked why he himself was not in office given it was past 9am, he said he wasn't campaigning for Pongsapat by being on stage - he had merely come to offer him moral support. Deputy Premier Chalerm Yoobamrung was also there and he lingered on even longer.