Writing this commentary hours before the results of Bangkok gubernatorial elections will be known, there is no certain way for this writer to know who will win.
As Bangkokians voted on Sunday and we still wait for the outcome, here is my brief note of what we can expect if candidate A, B or C wins, however.
Governor Asawin Kwanmuang again!
If former junta-appointed Bangkok Governor Asawain Kwanmuang wins, well, Asawin has been around for ages, or five years to be exact, so the man is a known quantity. He has no qualms being appointed by then junta leader Gen. Prayut Chan-o-ocha, so if there happens to be yet another military coup, do not count on Asawin to lead an anti-coup resistance.
As for the quality of his works, what you have been seeing over the past five years is what you will get for the next four years, although he promised to tackle the poverty issue, flood, make Bangkok greener, etc. The man is a survivor, a chameleon, and his strength will probably be that he will try to blend in and work with whoever is the new PM after the much-awaited national elections.
Caveat: Don’t expect any drastic change to Bangkok. We all saw what he was capable of or incapable of over the past five years. What to expect: more of nepotism. After all, Asawin appointed his young son, Pongsakorn Kwanmuang, as spokesperson of Bangkok Metropolitan Administration and did not feel there was anything egregious about it.
Governor Chatchart Sittipunt
If anyone in the current race came close to having a popstar quality, it is Chatchart. On Friday evening, young Thais mobbed him and hear him speak about the politics of hope. Then they queued up to take a selfie with him.
Chatchart insists he is an independent candidate, although the fact that he formerly served as Transport Minister under the Yingluck Shinawatra administration and that the main opposition Pheu Thai Party did not send any candidate to compete as Bangkok governor this time means many, including his rivals, regard him as a proxy of the party and that of ousted and fugitive former premier Thaksin Shinawatra.
The fears of Thaksin reclaiming political power will most likely dodge governor Chatchart and potentially become very toxic, particularly if most of the Bangkok City Council seats, which will be elected today as well, go to the opposite political camp. Chatchart insisted that he will try to strike a compromise to improve the quality of life in Bangkok and that is why he is not running under the Pheu Thai banner.
Chatchart is the longest-prepared candidate (not counting Asawin who had hands-on experience) as he announced his intention to run for Bangkok City Hall two years ago.
You can probably expect hands on and down to earth governor who will try to get things done. Some of his policies include reducing the prices of bus fare into one, develop affordable housing, reducing healthcare costs, reducing rental fees for food vendors, crackdown on tea-money, planting a million trees during his term, ensuring that every Bangkokian is no more than 15-minutes walks from a pocket public park and many more.
Toxic political environment could make Chatchart’s work difficult if elected, however, as his opponents will likely try to make sure he fails if elected as the next governor.
Governor Suchatchavee Suwansawas
The MIT-educated Suchatchavee is the hope of the Democrat Party which has not been doing well lately. Bangkok under him will likely see a lot of technologies being applied as he was trained as an engineer.
Suchatchavee promised to introduce 150,000 free Wi-Fi spots around the capital if elected, for example. He hinted at getting the private sector to fund such initiatives if needed. He vowed to start planning Bangkok long-term to prevent it from becoming a submerged metropolis.
Big and bold talks will have to be matched with results. The former university president is an ambitious man and even if he did not win, but received enough votes, one could imagine him entering national politics or even eventually leading the Democrat Party.
Governor Wiroj Lakhanaadisorn
Wiroj represents the Move Forward Party, and this new opposition party is about rearranging power equations and decentralization. A trained engineer, Wiroj was best known as an orator inside parliament.
He also, when asked, said he will fight along with the people if there is another military coup – an apparent snide to Asawin who accepted the coup maker’s legitimacy and benefited from it. Back in May 2014, when Prayut staged the coup, Wiroj was not a known figure in the resistance, however.
It is unclear how capable Wiroj will be, but one thing one can expect is that the party will give him full support, so it will be more about teamwork. Also, the party is sending many candidates to compete for the City Council seats.
As with Chatchart, expect more toxic politics and conflicts if Wiroj becomes governor as the party’s stance on monarchy reform is controversial to say the least. Toxic national politics will almost engulf him and made inseparable from local politics. The man is approachable and active on Twitter, so it is hoped that he has more direct access to genuine feedback from the people if elected.
Governor Rosana Tositrakoon
The only prominent female candidate, Rosana promised to introduce 3,000-baht universal cash subsidies for those 60 and over compared to the current 600 to 700 baht. She also promised to reduce the fees of BTS to 20 baht.
What she is best known for, however, is that she sells the politics of fear, the fears of Thaksin returning to power through Chatchart and urging people to vote for her to stop Chatchart winning a landslide. Her constituency is the anti-Thaksin baby boomer generation.
Governor Sakoltee Phatttiyakul
Even some of Sakoltee’s critics noted that the man really knows what a Bangkok governor can or cannot do, in terms of its limited authorities. This is a very good start. However, Sakoltee also peddled the politics of fear – the fears of Thaksin returning to power.
The fact that Sakoltee earned an open endorsement from no less that Suthep Thuagsuban, the former supreme leader of the pro-junta People’s Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) who obstructed an election in 2014 prior to the coup, makes one wonder why Sakoltee would not just wait for yet another coup to be appointed as Bangkok governor by the next coup leader.
Again, toxic national politics can be expected under his helm at City Hall if Sakoltee’s elected.