Sunday, March 03, 2013 10:00 am
Bangkok governor wins second term in key election
The Associated Press
The gubernatorial election was Bangkok's first since it was paralyzed by deadly anti-government protests in 2010. The Red Shirt protesters - mostly rural-based supporters of former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra - were demanding fresh elections from then-Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva of the Democrat party.
Bangkok is one of the few strongholds that the Democrats did not lose to the Pheu Thai party, led by Thaksin's sister and current Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, in the 2011 general election, thanks to the capital's pro-establishment middle class and elite voters.
The Democrats have ruled Bangkok for the past nine years, but they found themselves in a fight with Pheu Thai in a gubernatorial election that was seen as a barometer of their relevance in Thai politics.
The governor's race also highlighted the political divisiveness that has wracked Thailand for much of the past eight years, with the results showing that there is still a major divide.
Sukhumbhand Paribatra won re-election with 46.3 percent of the vote, while the Pheu Thai party candidate, Pongsapat Pongcharoen, had 39.7 percent.
The rift between the ruling and the opposition party was apparent during Sukhumbhand's first term, especially during a 2011 flooding crisis that crippled parts of Bangkok.
Yingluck said after Pongsapat conceded defeat Sunday that the ruling party would have to re-evaluate its performance in Bangkok's constituencies. She said the government would help the Democrats serve the city's residents.
In his victory speech, Sukhumbhand, 60, said he was "ready to work seamlessly with the government."
Nearly 64 percent of Bangkok's 4.2 million eligible voters turned out Sunday, the highest turnout for a gubernatorial election in the city's history.