EC: Bangkok Gubernatorial Election Likely This Year… Maybe.

Junta-appointed Bangkok Gov. Aswin Kwanmuang listens to a briefing on flooding in Bangkok on Oct. 16, 2020.

BANGKOK — Bangkok will probably get to vote for its Governor some time in 2021. Emphasis on the ‘probably,’ because even an agency tasked with organizing elections doesn’t even know for sure.

Election Commission sec-gen Jarungvith Phumma said the matter will be given a final say by the Cabinet. The odd arrangement is due to Gen. Prayut Chan-o-cha’s takeover through a military coup in 2014, which indefinitely suspended Bangkok’s gubernatorial election.

“I think it will be this year,” Jarungvith said. “It’s up to the Prime Minister and the Cabinet to decide.”

Under the Local Elections Act of 2019, passed under the junta’s oversight, the junta has the power to decide when it is appropriate to organize local elections, including the vote in Bangkok. If the junta no longer exists, the law says, the power will rest on the Cabinet.

The last gubernatorial election was held in 2013. Bangkok Governors are supposed to serve a 4-year term, but the junta in 2016 replaced the elected incumbent with its own candidate, Aswin Kwanmung, who continues to hold his position to this day.

Opposition MP Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn said his party, Move Forward, is ready to compete in any upcoming gubernatorial election. He warned that PM Prayut will only anger Bangkokians by delaying their rights to choose their own Governor.

“Since the coup, Bangkokians no longer felt the city belonged to them,” Wiroj said. “We feel like we are tenants or mere occupants. But Bangkokians are owners of Bangkok.”

The deputy leader of another opposition party, Pheu Thai Party, said holding an election for Bangkok Gov. should be an urgent agenda.

“There is no reason to delay it,” Pichai Naripthaphan said by phone. “Even local elections in other provinces took place last year. People already think that the popularity of the government is very low, but to delay the elections further would likely create more dissatisfaction for Bangkokians.”

Coalition leader Phalang Pracharath Party’s Paiboon Nititawan said the party will wait for the date of the election to be announced first before holding a meeting on the matter.

“We haven’t been met to select the candidate. There has been no announcement about the election yet. We will do things step by step so we will wait,” said Paiboon, who serves as the party deputy chairman.

Jarungvit, the Election Commissioner, declined to pinpoint when the election may take place, but warned that the spread of the coronavirus should be taken into consideration as well.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Pheu Thai deputy leader Pichai Naripthaphan’s name.