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Southern by-election to show strength of state mechanism, local business cliques: Academic

By Thai Newsroom Reporters

THE UPCOMING BY-ELECTION IN Chumphorn and Songkhla will definitely demonstrate how effective the state mechanism and local business cliques will be in the making of a couple of southern MPs under the banners of the largest coalition partner in government, namely Palang Pracharath Party, according to a noted academic.

January 16’s by-election for MP in Chumphorn’s Constituency 1 between Palang Pracharath Party’s candidate Chavalit Ardharn and Democrat Party’s candidate Issarapong Mark-ampai and that in Songkhla’s Constituency 6 between Palang Pracharath candidate Anukul Prueksanusak and Democrat candidate Supaporn Kamnerdpol are apparently being contested in unrelenting fashion regardless of the fact that both parties are part of the current coalition government. 

Nevertheless, an essential difference between Palang Pracharath Party and Democrat Party in the eye of many southern constituents refers to the state mechanism and business cliques which the former has secured over the latter, according to Burapa University political scientist Olarn Thinbangteo.

Being the largest coalition partner in government, Palang Pracharath Party has gradually managed to take control of state mechanism under which provincial and local officials are more or less obliged to serve the policies and measures of the government, thus rendering a decisive edge of the party’s candidate over his rivals, Olarn pointed out.

Many local businesspersons and leading constituents in those southern provinces would see which way the wind blows and undoubtedly go along with it whereas the popularity of the once-prominent Democrat Party has gradually diminished in comparison with Palang Pracharath Party, the Burapa political scientist remarked.

The common sentiment which may have earlier prevailed over the southern constituents to the extent that their entire southern region essentially belong to the Democrats no longer exists, meaning the likes of Palang Pracharath Party and Bhumjaithai Party may run in a race to parliament against the previous champions under a token leadership of House Speaker Chuan Leekpai at any time, according to the university academic. 

Nevertheless, the current situation in Chumphorn is looking different according to Sirisak Onlamai, a six-time former Democrat MP who has recently defected to Palang Pracharath Party who accused many village-based healthcare volunteers throughout the southern constituency of quietly canvassing for a certain candidate who is contesting against the one whom he is openly supporting. 

Sirisak who is canvassing for Chavalit alleged that these village-based healthcare volunteers were eagerly mustering support for the candidate in question during the run-up to the by-election despite the fact that they are primarily obliged to perform at the orders and guidance of provincial public health officials who are basically supposed to “stay impartial.”

In the meantime, despite the shared failure of several Palang Pracharath members of cabinet over their joint attempt to oust former deputy agriculture and cooperatives minister Thammanat Prompow as secretary-general of the party late last year, a few were unexpectedly assigned the tasks of looking after the party’s candidates contesting the Chumphorn and Songkhla by-election. Deputy finance minister Santi Prompat was assigned to support Chavalit running for MP in Chumphorn’s Constituency 1 and Labour Minister Suchart Chomklin to take care of Anukul running for MP in Songkhla’s Constituency 6.

The popularity, if any, of Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha in the eyes of most southern constituents practically was not taken into account, according to the academic.

Needless to say, Palang Pracharath Party leader/Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan is expecting nothing less than a clear-cut victory in both the Chumphorn or Songkhla constituencies since the by-election contests will definitely set a guideline for a future general election not only in the two southern provinces but a dozen others throughout the southern region and Palang Pracharath Party has been undoubtedly determined to head and sustain a coalition, either with or without Prayut as the party’s candidate for head of a post-election government again.

In the 2019 general election in Chumphorn, Palang Pracharath failed to get an MP whereas Democrat Party secured two MPs, including deposed Chumpol Julasai for whom the by-election is being held on January 16 to find a new MP to replace him.

In the previous general election in Songkhla, Palang Pracharath Party secured four out of eight MPs representing the southern province. Among the eight was deposed Democrat MP Thaworn Senniam for whom the by-election is being held to find a replacement.


Top: From left: Isarapong Mark-ampai, Chavalit Ardharn, Supaporn Kamnerdpol and Anukul Prueksanusak. The Thai headline says, “Showing a fierce contest.” Photo: Matichon

Home Page:  Palang Pracharath Party leader/Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan. Photo: Sanook.com

Also read: Healthcare volunteers allegedly turned into canvassers in upcoming by-election

Southern by-election to see fierce contest among 3 coalition partners


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